It may help to know that:

  • some offences mention that a death or deaths have occurred, but others do not
  • some offences mention that an injury or injuries have occurred, but others do not
  • sometimes it is only possible for someone to be charged with an offence that does not mention death or injury
  • sometimes a person, or more than one person, is charged with committing more than one offence.

Maximum penalties are fixed by law and are different for different offences, sometimes significantly. Courts often impose penalties lower than the maximum.

Sometimes, new offences are created, or there are changes to the definition of offences or the maximum penalty for an offence.

Find out more

For more information about criminal offences and charging policy, contact a criminal prosecution agency in the country where the crash happened:

If you need more information about why someone has, or hasn't, been charged with a particular offence, you can ask the criminal prosecution agency for a meeting, or ask your solicitor if you are using one. You can also ask the National Road Victim Service for help.

Click on the links below to read more about each offence.

Offences that mention that a death or injury has occurred

Causing death by dangerous driving Down arrow icon to open accordion

Section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended by the Road Traffic Act 1991, section 1)

The law states that: ‘A person who causes the death of another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place is guilty of an offence.’

The definition of dangerous driving is that:

  • the way a person drove fell far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and
  • it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

It is also dangerous driving if it would have been obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving a vehicle in its current state (for example, with defective brakes or other defective safety-critical components) would be dangerous.

If a jury decides that an accused person is not guilty of this charge, they may instead convict them of ‘causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving’, ‘dangerous driving’ or ‘careless or inconsiderate driving’.

Penalties

  • In England & Wales: This offence is tried in the Crown Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of 14 years and/or an unlimited fine. Anyone convicted of this offence must be disqualified from driving for a minimum of two years, unless there are special reasons to impose a shorter disqualification or no disqualification. They must pass an extended driving test before they can regain a full driving licence.
  • In Scotland: This offence is usually tried in the High Court but in some circumstances may be heard in a Sheriff Court with a jury. The maximum prison sentence is 14 years at the High Court or five years at a Sheriff Court. Both courts may impose an unlimited fine. Anyone convicted must be disqualified from driving for a minimum period of two years. The offender must take an extended driving test before they can regain their licence.
Causing death or grievous bodily injury by dangerous driving (NI) Down arrow icon to open accordion

Article 9 of the Road Traffic (NI) Order 1995 (SI 1995 No. 2994 NI 18)

The law states that: ‘A person who causes the death of, or grievous bodily injury to, another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place is guilty of an offence.’

The definition of dangerous driving is that:

  1. a) the way a person drove fell far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and
  2. b) it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous. It is also dangerous driving if it would have been obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving a vehicle in its current state (for example, with defective brakes or other defective safety-critical components) would be dangerous.

Penalties

  • In Northern Ireland: This offence is tried in a Crown Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of 14 years and/or an unlimited fine. The driver must be disqualified from driving for a minimum period of two years unless there are special reasons not to disqualify. The court must also order the driver to be disqualified until s/he passes the appropriate driving test. In rare cases where the driver is not disqualified, the driver’s licence must be endorsed with between three and 11 penalty points.
Causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving Down arrow icon to open accordion

Section 2B of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended by the Road Safety Act 2006, section 20)

The law states that: ‘A person who causes the death of another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, is guilty of an offence.’

The law distinguishes between ‘dangerous’ driving and ‘careless or inconsiderate’ driving. The definition of careless and inconsiderate driving is that the standard of a person’s driving fell below (rather than far below) what would be expected of a careful and competent driver.

Penalties

  • In England & Wales: This offence can be tried in either the Crown Court or a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of five years and/or an unlimited fine in the Crown Court, or a prison sentence of six months and/or an unlimited fine in a Magistrates’ Court. Anyone convicted of this offence must be disqualified from driving for a minimum of one year, unless there are special reasons to impose a shorter disqualification or no disqualification. They may be ordered to pass an extended driving test before they can regain a full driving licence.
  • In Scotland: This offence is usually tried before a sheriff and jury in the Sheriff Court. In those circumstances, the maximum penalty is a prison sentence of five years or an unlimited fine, or both. The charge can also be heard by a sheriff, without a jury, in a Sheriff Court. Here, the maximum penalty is a prison sentence of 12 months or a fine of £10,000 or both. The driver must be disqualified for a minimum period of one year and their licence must be endorsed with three to 11 penalty points. The court has discretion to order the offender to re-sit their driving test before regaining their licence.
Causing death or grievous bodily injury by careless or inconsiderate driving (NI) Down arrow icon to open accordion

Article 11A of the Road Traffic (NI) Order 1995 (as introduced by article 52 of the Criminal Justice (NI) Order 2008)

The law states that: ‘A person who causes the death of, or grievous bodily injury to, another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, is guilty of an offence.’

The law distinguishes between ‘dangerous’ driving and ‘careless or inconsiderate’ driving. The definition of careless and inconsiderate driving is that the standard of a person’s driving fell below (rather than far below) what would be expected of a careful and competent driver.

Penalties

  • In Northern Ireland: This offence can be tried in either a Crown Court or a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of five years and an unlimited fine in the Crown Court, or a prison sentence of six months and a maximum fine of £5,000 in a Magistrates’ Court. The driver must be disqualified from driving for a minimum period of one year. In rare cases where the driver is not disqualified, their driver’s licence must be endorsed with between three and 11 penalty points.
Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs Down arrow icon to open accordion

Section 3A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended by the Road Traffic Act 1991, section 3)

The law states that: ‘If a person causes the death of another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, and s/he is, at the time when driving, unfit to drive through drink or drugs, or s/he has consumed so much alcohol or specified drugs that the proportion in his /her breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit, or s/he fails to provide a specimen, s/he is guilty of an offence.’

The offence is committed if the death is caused by careless driving and the driver has more than the legal limit of alcohol or specified drugs, or fails to provide a specimen. This means the police do not necessarily have to show a person’s driving ability was impaired, only that they had more than the permitted amount of alcohol or certain drugs.

Penalties

  • In England & Wales: This offence is tried in the Crown Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of 14 years and/or an unlimited fine. Anyone convicted of this offence must be disqualified from driving for a minimum of two years (or three years if there is a related previous conviction), unless there are special reasons to impose a shorter disqualification or no disqualification. They must pass an extended driving test to regain a full driving licence. If the driver is not disqualified, their licence may be endorsed with between three and 11 penalty points.
  • In Scotland: This offence is usually heard in the High Court but in some circumstances may be heard in a Sheriff Court. The maximum prison sentence is 14 years at the High Court or five years at a Sheriff Court. Both courts may impose an unlimited fine instead of, or in addition to, a prison sentence. Anyone convicted must be disqualified from driving for a minimum period of two years and their licence endorsed with three to 11 penalty points. The offender must pass an extended driving test to regain their licence.
Causing death or grievous bodily injury by careless driving under the influence of drink/drugs (NI) Down arrow icon to open accordion

Article 14 of the Road Traffic (NI) Order 1995

The law states that: 'If a person causes the death of, or grievous bodily injury to, another by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, and he is, at the time when driving, unfit to drive through drink or drugs, or he has consumed so much alcohol that the proportion in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit, or he is required to provide a specimen but without reasonable excuse fails to provide it, or he is required by a constable to give permission for a laboratory test of a specimen of blood but without reasonable excuse fails to do so, he is guilty of an offence.'

If a driver is proven to have had more than the legal limit for alcohol in their system at the time of the crash, the prosecution does not have to prove the driver’s driving ability was impaired.

Penalties

  • In Northern Ireland: This offence is tried in a Crown Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of 14 years and an unlimited fine. Anyone convicted must be disqualified from driving for a minimum period of two years unless there are special reasons not to disqualify. In rare cases where the driver is not disqualified, their licence must be endorsed with between three and 11 penalty points.
Causing death by driving: unlicensed or uninsured drivers Down arrow icon to open accordion

Section 3ZB of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as inserted by the Road Safety Act 2006, section 21, and amended by the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015)

The law states that: ‘A person is guilty of an offence if s/he causes the death of another person by driving a motor vehicle on a road and, at the time when s/he is driving, the circumstances are such that s/he is committing an offence under –

(a) section 87(1) of this Act (driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence), or

(c) section 143 of this Act (using a motor vehicle while uninsured or unsecured against third party risks).’

This offence would only be charged where there is evidence that the standard of driving was in some way at fault and contributed more than minimally to the death. If an uninsured/unlicensed driver was involved in a crash caused entirely by somebody else, they would not be prosecuted for causing the death by driving.

Penalties

  • In England & Wales: This offence can be tried in either the Crown Court or a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of two years and/or an unlimited fine in the Crown Court, or a prison sentence of six months and/or an unlimited fine in a Magistrates’ Court. Anyone convicted of this offence must be disqualified from driving and their licence must be endorsed with between three and 11 penalty points.
  • In Scotland: An offence under section 3ZB can be heard before a jury in the
    High Court or the Sheriff Court. In those circumstances, the maximum penalty is a prison sentence of two years or an unlimited fine or both. The charge can also be heard by a sheriff, without a jury, in a Sheriff Court. Here, the maximum penalty is a prison sentence of 12 months or a fine of £10,000 or both. The driver must be disqualified for a minimum period of one year and their licence must be endorsed with between three and 11 penalty points.
Causing death by driving: disqualified drivers Down arrow icon to open accordion

Section 3ZC of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as inserted by the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 (2015c.2))

The law states that: ‘A person is guilty of an offence under this section if he or she –

(a) causes the death of another person by driving a motor vehicle on a road, and

(b) at that time, is committing an offence under section 103(1)(b) of the Act (driving while disqualified).’

This offence would only be charged where there is evidence that the standard of driving was in some way at fault and that it is linked to the death.

Penalties

  • In England & Wales: This offence can only be tried in the Crown Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of 10 years and/or an unlimited fine. Anyone convicted of this offence must be disqualified from driving for a minimum period of two years unless there are special reasons to impose a shorter disqualification or no disqualification
  • In Scotland: An offence under section 3ZC can only be heard before a jury in the High Court or Sheriff Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of 10 years, an unlimited fine, or both. The driver must be disqualified for a minimum period of one year and their licence must be endorsed with between three and 11 penalty points.
Causing death or grievous bodily injury by driving: unlicensed/disqualified/uninsured drivers (NI) Down arrow icon to open accordion

Article 12B of the Road Traffic (NI) Order 1995 (as introduced by Article 53 of the Criminal Justice (NI) Order 2008)

The law states that: ‘A person is guilty of an offence under this Article if he causes the death of, or grievous bodily injury to, another person by driving a motor vehicle on a road and, at the time when he is driving, the circumstances are such that he is committing an offence under –

  1. Article 3(1) of the Road Traffic (NI) Order 1981 (driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence),
  2. Article 90 of that Order (using a motor vehicle while uninsured or unsecured against third party risks), or
  3. Article 168A(1)(c) of that Order (driving while disqualified).’

It is possible that a driver may not be charged with this offence if their driving was without fault (for example, if the person they hit and killed caused the collision themselves because they were drink driving). In 2013 a judge ruled that driving without a licence or insurance would not be enough to hold the driver criminally responsible for causing a death if their driving was otherwise blameless.

Penalties

  • In Northern Ireland: This offence can be tried in either a Crown Court or a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of two years and an unlimited fine in the Crown Court, or a prison sentence of six months and a maximum fine of £5,000 in a Magistrates’ Court. The driver must be disqualified from driving for a minimum period of one year. In rare cases where the driver is not disqualified, the driver’s licence must be endorsed with between three and 11 penalty points.
Murder and manslaughter (England & Wales and NI) Down arrow icon to open accordion

Common Law

Murder is committed when there was intention to kill a victim or cause grievous bodily harm. This would mean that the driver had purposefully used their vehicle as a weapon. Charges of murder are rarely brought against drivers following a fatal road crash.

There are two types of manslaughter charge that could be brought against a driver who has caused death:

  • Unlawful act manslaughter’ is committed when the accused caused loss of life through an illegal action, such as using their vehicle as a weapon, but it cannot be proven that they intended to kill or cause grievous bodily harm.
  • Gross negligence manslaughter’ is committed when it is proven that the accused’s driving: caused the death; fell far below the standard of a careful and competent driver; involved an obvious and serious risk of death; was a gross breach of a ‘duty of care’ owed by the driver to the person who died; and was so far below the minimum acceptable standard of driving as to amount to a crime.

Penalties

  • In England & Wales: The offences of murder and manslaughter are tried in the Crown Court. Murder carries a mandatory life sentence. Manslaughter has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Anyone convicted of manslaughter in a driving case must be disqualified from driving for a minimum period of two years and then required to pass a driving test to regain a full driving licence.
  • In Northern Ireland: The offences of murder and manslaughter are tried in a Crown Court. Murder carries a mandatory life sentence. Manslaughter has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Anyone convicted must be disqualified from driving for a minimum period of two years and then required to pass a driving test to regain a full driving licence, unless there are special reasons not to disqualify. In rare cases where the driver is not disqualified, their driver’s licence must be endorsed with between three and 11 penalty points.
Murder and culpable homicide (Scotland) Down arrow icon to open accordion

Common Law

It is possible to charge someone with murder or culpable homicide if their driving has killed. Murder is committed when there was intention to kill a victim or the accused’s conduct was ‘wickedly reckless’. A charge of murder may, for example, be brought if someone used a vehicle as a weapon with an intent to kill. Culpable homicide is committed when the accused caused loss of life through wrongful conduct, but there was no intention to kill nor ‘wicked recklessness’.

Penalties

  • In Scotland: Murder and culpable homicide charges are heard in a High Court. Murder carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.
Causing serious injury by dangerous driving (England & Wales and Scotland) Down arrow icon to open accordion

Section 1A of the Road Traffic Act 1988

Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012

This offence is defined as a person who causes serious injury to another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place.

'Serious injury' in England and Wales means physical harm which amounts to the legal definition of grievous bodily harm, and in Scotland, severe physical injury.

Penalties

  • In England & Wales: This offence is tried in a Crown Court or Magistrates' Court. If heard in a Crown Court, the maximum sentence is five years' imprisonment and/or a fine. If heard in a Magistrates' Court, the maximum sentence is six months imprisonment and/or a fine. The driver must be disqualified from driving for a minimum of two years, and must pass an extended driving test to regain their full driving licence.
  • In Scotland: This offence can be heard before a jury, where the maximum penalty is five years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both. The charge can also be heard by a sheriff without a jury in a Sheriff Court. In this case, the maximum penalty is 12 months' imprisonment or a £10,000 fine or both. The driver must be disqualified from driving for a minimum of two years unless there are special reasons to impose a shorter disqualification or no disqualification. The driver’s licence must be endorsed with between three and 11 penalty points. The driver must pass an extended driving test before they can regain a full driving licence.
Wanton or furious driving causing bodily harm (England & Wales and NI) Down arrow icon to open accordion

Section 35, Offences against the Person Act 1861 (as amended by the Road Safety Act 2006, section 28)

Driving offences under the Road Traffic Act must involve a motorised vehicle, and be on a public road or in a public place. By contrast, the offences of ‘wanton and furious driving causing bodily harm’, as well as the offences of murder or manslaughter, do not have these restrictions. They can be committed even if the offender is using a non-motorised vehicle, such as a bicycle. They can also be committed wherever the driving takes place, including on private land.

Penalties

  • In England & Wales: This offence is tried in the Crown Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of two years and/or an unlimited fine. Anyone convicted of this offence can be disqualified from driving. If they are not disqualified, their licence must be endorsed with between three and nine penalty points.
  • In Northern Ireland: This offence is normally only directed by the PPS when it is not possible to prosecute an offence under the road traffic legislation. This offence is tried in the Crown Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of two years and/or an unlimited fine. Anyone convicted of this offence will not be disqualified from driving, but their driver’s licence will be endorsed with between three and nine penalty points if driving a mechanically propelled vehicle.
Corporate manslaughter and corporate homicide Down arrow icon to open accordion

Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007

The law states that ‘An organisation is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised: (a) causes a person’s death, and (b) amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.’

A ‘duty of care’ is defined as a duty owed by an organisation to its employees or contractors, a duty owed as the occupier of premises, or other duties described in law that relate to the running of the organisation.

An organisation is guilty of a ‘gross breach’ of a relevant duty of care if its conduct fell far below what would be reasonably expected. For example, if a company failed to ensure a vehicle it was operating had serviced brakes, and the vehicle could not be controlled.

Penalties

  • In England & Wales: This offence is tried in a Crown Court. Any penalty is against the company, not individuals working for the company. The court may impose an unlimited fine. The court may also impose a remedial order (where an organisation must make changes to prevent future breaches of health and safety laws) and a publicity order (where an organisation must publicise the details of its offence).
  • In Scotland: This charge is heard in the High Court. Any penalty is against the company, not individuals working for the company. The court may impose an unlimited fine. The court may also impose a remedial order (where an organisation must make changes to prevent future breaches of health and safety laws) and a publicity order (where an organisation must publicise the details of its offence).
  • In Northern Ireland: This offence is tried in a Crown Court, and the director of the PPS must give consent for the trial to take place. Any penalty is against the company, not individuals working for the company. The court may impose an unlimited fine. The court may also impose a remedial order (where an organisation must make changes to prevent future breaches of health and safety laws) and a publicity order (where an organisation must publicise the details of its offence).
Gross negligence manslaughter by company employees (England & Wales and NI) Down arrow icon to open accordion

Common Law

Individuals within companies can be prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter if their actions were criminal and directly led to a fatal crash. For example, if a boss of a lorry company told a driver not to take their legally-required rest breaks and the driver fell asleep at the wheel, or if they told their mechanic not to replace worn brakes on a lorry and these brakes subsequently failed.

Companies can also be prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter if an individual found guilty of the offence plays a significant role in the management of the organisation’s activities.

Penalties

  • In England & Wales: If an individual is found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. If a company is found guilty, it can receive an unlimited fine.
  • In Northern Ireland: If an individual is found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. If a company is found guilty, it can receive an unlimited fine.
Aggravated vehicle taking ('Joy riding') (England & Wales and NI) Down arrow icon to open accordion

Section 12A of the Theft Act 1968

Articles 172A and 172B, Road Traffic (NI) Order 1981

This offence is committed when a person takes a vehicle without the owner's consent (often called ‘joy riding’ in the media) or other lawful authority for his own or another's use, or, knowing that any vehicle has been taken without such authority, drives it or allows himself to be carried in it or on it and at any time after the vehicle was unlawfully taken, whether by them or by another, and before it was recovered:

a) the vehicle was driven dangerously on a road or other public place; or

b) owing to the driving of the vehicle, injury or death was caused to any person; or

c) owing to the driving of the vehicle, damage was caused to any property; or

d) owing to the driving of the vehicle, damage was caused to the vehicle.

Penalties

  • In England & Wales: The offence is tried in the Crown Court or Magistrates' Court. If a death was caused, the maximum sentence in a Crown Court is 14 years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. The maximum sentence in a Magistrates' Court is six months' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. The driver must be disqualified for a minimum of one year. If dangerous driving was proven, the convicted person must pass an extended driving test before a full driving licence can be obtained.
  • In Northern Ireland: An Article 172A offence does not require a specific level of injury to have been caused.
    Article 172A offences are tried in both Crown Courts and Magistrates' Courts. Article 172B offences are tried in a Crown Court only. The maximum sentence in a Crown Court is 14 years' imprisonment if a death was caused and an unlimited fine. The maximum sentence in a Magistrates' Court is six months' imprisonment and a £5,000 fine. The driver must be disqualified for a minimum of one year. If dangerous driving is proven the convicted person must pass an extended driving test before a full driving licence can be obtained. In rare cases where the driver is not disqualified, the driver’s licence must be endorsed with between three and 11 penalty points.
Taking and driving away ('Joy riding') (Scotland) Down arrow icon to open accordion

Section 178 of the Road Traffic Act 1988

The law states that: ‘A person who in Scotland takes and drives away a motor vehicle without having either the consent of the owner of the vehicle or other lawful authority, or knowing that a motor vehicle has been so taken, drives it or allows himself to be carried in or on it without such consent or authority, is guilty of an offence.’ This offence is sometimes called ‘joyriding’ in the media.

Penalties

  • In Scotland: This charge can be heard before the sheriff or before a jury in a Sheriff Court or the High Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of 12 months or an unlimited fine, or both.
Failing to stop or report an accident ('Hit and run') (England & Wales and NI) Down arrow icon to open accordion

Section 170(4) of the Road Traffic Act 1988

Article 175, Road Traffic (NI) Order 1981

A driver involved in a crash causing death, injury or damage is required to stop, remain at the scene and give their details. If they don’t, they are required to report the crash to a police officer ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ and within 24 hours. This offence (often called ‘hit and run’ in the media) is committed if a driver doesn't do this.

Penalties

  • In England & Wales: Offences under this section are tried in a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty for failing to stop or report an accident is a prison sentence of six months and/or an unlimited fine. The driver can be disqualified from driving. If not, their licence must be endorsed with between five and 10 penalty points.
  • In Northern Ireland: Offences under this section are tried in a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of six months and a fine of £5,000. The driver can be disqualified from driving. If not, their licence must be endorsed with five to 10 penalty points.
Failing to stop or report an accident ('Hit and run') (Scotland) Down arrow icon to open accordion

Section 170(4) and Section 170(7) of the Road Traffic Act 1988

A driver involved in a crash causing death, injury or damage must stop and provide their name and address, and the name and address of the owner of the vehicle and the identifying marks of the vehicle. Failure to do so is an offence (often called ‘hit and run’ in the media). It is an aggravation of the offence if the driver did not stop because they thought they were over the legal alcohol limit.

If for any reason the driver does not give this information at the time of the crash, they must report the crash to a police officer or at a police station within 24 hours. Failure to report a crash is also an offence.

Penalties

  • In Scotland: Offences under this section are usually heard in a Sheriff Court. The maximum sentence for failing to stop and give details is 12 months’ imprisonment or a £5,000 fine or both. The driver’s licence must be endorsed with between five and 10 penalty points and the court may disqualify them. The penalty for failing to report a crash or provide details of insurance is a £1,000 fine.
Killing someone by using a defective vehicle Down arrow icon to open accordion

If an unsafe vehicle (for example, a vehicle with defective brakes) has caused a death, then there are a range of offences that may have been committed by, depending on the case, the driver, the owner or operator of the vehicle if different (for example, the boss of a company running a fleet of vehicles), or anyone else considered responsible.

It may be possible, for example, to charge someone with the offence of causing death by dangerous driving, aiding and abetting, or corporate manslaughter.

Someone may be found to be in breach of Construction and Use Regulations. These impose requirements relating to safety critical components such as brakes, tyres, steering, tachographs (which record driving time of commercial vehicles) and speed limiters (which restrict speed on commercial vehicles).

Penalties

  • In England & Wales: Breaches of Construction and Use Regulations are usually heard in a Magistrates’ Court, but some offences may be dealt with by fixed penalty notice. In a Magistrates’ Court there is a range of maximum fines which can be imposed for different Construction and Use offences, the most severe of which is unlimited. Anyone given a fixed penalty notice must pay £60 and their licence must be endorsed with three penalty points. It may also be possible to disqualify an offender from running a company.
  • In Scotland: Breaches of Construction and Use Regulations are heard in either a Justice of the Peace Court or Sheriff Court. There are a range of maximum fines, the most severe of which is £10,000 in the Sheriff Court and £2,500 in the Justice of the Peace Court (except if a Stipendiary Magistrate is sitting when the maximum is £10,000). If the vehicle was a lorry, bus or coach, then the person in charge of the company that ran the vehicle may lose their licence to operate such vehicles. The official who decides whether or not this should happen is called the Traffic Commissioner. It may also be possible to disqualify a company boss from running any company.
  • In Northern Ireland: Breaches of Construction and Use Regulations are heard in a Magistrates' Court. There is a range of maximum fines which can be imposed for different Construction and Use offences, the highest of which is £5,000. It may also be possible to disqualify an offender from running a company.

Offences that do not mention that a death or injury has occurred

Dangerous driving & Careless and inconsiderate driving (England & Wales and NI) Down arrow icon to open accordion
  • Dangerous driving:
    England & Wales: Section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended by the Road Traffic Act 1991, section 1)
    NI: Article 10 of the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1995
  • Careless, and inconsiderate, driving
    England & Wales: Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988
    NI: Article 12 of the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1995

In some cases, there is evidence that a driver was driving dangerously or carelessly before or after the crash, but there is no evidence to prove dangerous or careless driving at the time of the crash. In these cases, it may only be possible to charge someone with either dangerous driving or careless driving, rather than the more serious offence of ‘causing death by dangerous driving’ or ‘causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving’.

Penalties

  • In England & Wales:
    Dangerous driving can be tried in either the Crown Court or a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of two years and/or an unlimited fine in the Crown Court, or a prison sentence of six months and/or an unlimited fine in a Magistrates’ Court. The driver must be disqualified from driving for a minimum of one year unless there are special reasons to impose a shorter disqualification or no disqualification. The driver must pass an extended driving test before they can regain a full driving licence.
    Careless driving is tried in a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is an unlimited fine. The driver can be disqualified from driving. If not, their licence must be endorsed with between three and nine penalty points.
  • In Northern Ireland:
    Dangerous driving
    can be tried in either a Crown Court or a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of five years and an unlimited fine in the Crown Court, or a prison sentence of six months and a fine of £5,000 in a Magistrates’ Court. The driver must be disqualified from driving for a minimum of one year unless there are special reasons to impose a shorter disqualification or no disqualification. The driver must pass an extended driving test before they can regain a full driving licence.
    Careless or inconsiderate driving
    is tried in a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is a fine of £5,000. The driver can be disqualified from driving, or, if not, their licence must be endorsed with between three and nine penalty points.
Driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence Down arrow icon to open accordion

England & Wales: Section 87(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended by the Road Traffic Act 1991, section 17)

NI: Article 3(1) the Road Traffic (NI) Order 1981

A person commits this offence if they drive when they do not hold a driving licence, or if they do not comply with the conditions of their licence.

There may be circumstances where an unlicensed driver is involved in a fatal collision, but it cannot be proved that their actual driving caused the death (for example, where they are driving carefully at a safe speed and another driver collides with them and dies). In these circumstances, they may still be prosecuted for driving without a valid licence.

It is also an offence to cause or permit another person to drive if they do not hold a valid driving licence.

Penalties

  • In England & Wales: This offence is tried in a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is a fine of £1,000. The driver can be disqualified from driving. If not, their licence must be endorsed with between three and six penalty points.
  • In Scotland: The maximum sentence is a £1,000 fine. In some circumstances, the driver’s licence may be endorsed with between three and six penalty points, or the court may disqualify them.
  • In Northern Ireland: This offence is tried in a Magistrates' Court. The maximum sentence is a fine of £1,000 and three to six penalty points. The driver may be disqualified.
Driving while disqualified Down arrow icon to open accordion

England & Wales: Section 103(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988

NI: Article 168A(1)(c) the Road Traffic (NI) Order 1981

If a person drives while disqualified from driving, they commit this offence. A person may also be charged with this offence instead of 'driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence', if they do not comply with the conditions of a provisional licence gained after a period of disqualification. There may be circumstances where a disqualified driver is involved in a fatal collision, but it cannot be proved that their actual driving caused the death (for example, where they are driving carefully at a safe speed and another driver collides with them and dies). In these circumstances, they may still be prosecuted for driving while disqualified.

Penalties

  • In England & Wales: This offence is tried in a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is a prison sentence of six months and/or an unlimited fine. Anyone convicted of this offence can be disqualified from driving. If they are not disqualified, their licence must be endorsed with six penalty points.
  • In Scotland: The charge can be heard before a jury in the High Court or Sheriff Court. In those circumstances, the driver can be sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, or an unlimited fine, or both. The charge can also be heard by a sheriff, without a jury, in a Sheriff Court. Here, the maximum penalty is 12 months’ imprisonment, or a £10,000 fine, or both.
  • In Northern Ireland: When tried in the Crown Court, the maximum sentence is two years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. If tried in a Magistrates' Court, the maximum sentence is six months’ imprisonment and a fine of up to £5,000. The driver can be disqualified from driving. In rare cases where the driver is not disqualified, the driver’s licence must be endorsed with six penalty points.
Driving without insurance Down arrow icon to open accordion

England & Wales: Section 143(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988

NI: Article 90 the Road Traffic (NI) Order 1981

If a person drives a vehicle on a road or any other public place without motor insurance, they have committed this offence. There may be circumstances where an uninsured driver is involved in a fatal collision, but it cannot be proved that their actual driving caused the death (for example, where they are driving carefully at a safe speed and another driver collides with them and dies). In these circumstances, they may still be prosecuted for driving without insurance.

Penalties

  • In England & Wales: This offence is tried in a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum penalty is an unlimited fine. Anyone convicted of this offence can be disqualified from driving. If they are not disqualified, their licence must be endorsed with between six and eight penalty points.
  • In Scotland: The maximum sentence is a £5,000 fine. The driver’s licence must be endorsed with between six and eight penalty points and the court may disqualify them.
  • In Northern Ireland: This offence is tried in a Magistrates' Court. The maximum sentence is a fine of up to £5,000 and six months’ imprisonment. The driver may be disqualified from driving or the driving licence endorsed with between six and eight penalty points. However, if the driver is being tried for additional serious offences it may be heard in the Crown Court together with those offences.
Aiding and abetting Down arrow icon to open accordion

Someone who encourages another person to commit an offence may also be guilty of that offence. For example, if a passenger in a vehicle encourages the driver to drive dangerously, the passenger may be guilty of aiding and abetting dangerous driving.

This can also apply in the case of a company that uses drivers (such as a lorry or bus operator) and allowed those drivers to drive dangerously, or use vehicles in a dangerous condition. The company, or a manager within the company, may be charged.

Penalties

Generally, the same penalties apply, although length of licence disqualification may differ.

The National Road Victim Service

0808 8000 401

Brake’s free support service if you are bereaved, seriously injured, or helping a road crash victim.

Meet your named caseworker. Call 0808 8000 401 or email help@brake.org.uk