Dangerous Driving

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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.

This topic will deal with the offence under the Criminal Code of Canada, dangerous driving.

Dangerous driving is a serious offence where your driving shows a reckless disregard for public safety. While most dangerous driving cases consist of a driver dangerously operating their vehicle in the vicinity of people, there does not have to be other people around for a driver to be charged with dangerous driving. A public place is generally any place to which the public ordinarily has access. It includes, but is not limited to, public highways and roads, parking lots around privately owned shopping malls, a driveway that members of the public have access to or a school ground accessed by teachers and students.

There are various degrees of dangerous driving. The most serious form is dangerous driving causing death. If convicted of this offence, you could be served a maximum of 14 years imprisonment (punishment in which an individual stay for a specified time period in jail) and your licence will be suspended for 5 years. The second most serious dangerous driving offence is dangerous driving causing bodily harm. If found guilty of this crime you may be sentence with imprisonment not exceeding 10 years and a 5 year licence suspension. Those who do not kill or injure anyone while dangerously driving, but operate their vehicles in a manner dangerous to public safety face a maximum of five years imprisonment and a one year suspension of their licence.

In order to be convicted of dangerous driving it is necessary that the crown prosecutor prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt. It must first be demonstrated that you were driving or operating a motor vehicle or a vessel including water skis, a surfboard or water sled at the time of the offence. The crown must then show that you operated your vehicle or vessel in a manner that was, or could be reasonably expected to be, dangerous to the public. For example, if you are speeding through a school zone, the court will decide whether the lives or safety of the public was or could have been placed in danger as a result of your driving. The court will also consider whether, objectively viewed, the accused exercised the same care in terms of operating their vehicle that a reasonable person would exercise in those same circumstances. In situations where an external circumstance (such as a sudden bout of sickness, or a bee flying into your car) effected your driving the court will consider whether a reasonable person suffering from that same issue would have acted in a similar way.

In cases of dangerous driving causing bodily harm or death, the crown must demonstrate that injury or death resulted from the dangerous driving itself. The crown only has to prove that the dangerous driving was a significant contributing cause to the injury or death of the victim. The court will not consider whether you intended the accident or not in deciding your guilt.

Driver’s licence suspensions are governed by the Motor Vehicle Administration Act of Alberta. Once your licence is suspended you may not operate a motor vehicle until your license is reinstated. This remains true even if the period of the suspension has lapsed. In order to reinstate your license you must attend an Alberta Private Registry Centre and pay the required fee.

Additional conditions may be imposed on the reinstatement of your licence such as drug counselling, driver training or physical examinations. These conditions must be fulfilled before your licence is returned. Driving while your licence is suspended or failing to reinstate your license before you resume driving could result in a maximum term of imprisonment of 2 years.

If you are charged with the offence of dangerous driving, you should consult with a lawyer.