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Negligent Driving (Tas)

Updated on Dec 13, 2022 5 min read 229 views Copy Link

Nicola Bowes

Published in Dec 13, 2022 Updated on Dec 13, 2022 5 min read 229 views

Negligent Driving (Tas)

It is an offence under section 32 of the Traffic Act 1925 for someone to drive a motor vehicle negligently on a public street in Tasmania. When this negligence rises to the level of recklessness, it is punishable by heavy fines and even imprisonment. This page examines types of negligent driving offences in Tasmania.

Negligent driving offences

In Tasmania, there are several offences listed under the category of reckless driving, including:

  1. Driving a motor vehicle negligently on a public street.
  2. Driving a motor vehicle recklessly on a public street.
  3. Driving a motor vehicle negligently on a public street, causing grievous bodily harm to another person.
  4. Driving a motor vehicle negligently on a public street, causing the death of another person.

When determining whether a driver was negligent or reckless, several factors are taken into account, including the circumstances, the condition, use and type of public street, and the actual and expected traffic at the time. A driver must adapt their behaviour to the road conditions at any particular moment. For instance, a driver should reduce speed in wet conditions, and even drive below the posted speed limit if visibility is poor.

Negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm

The Tasmanian Police usually address a charge of negligent driving through a traffic infringement notice for a maximum punishment of five penalty units. However, when a negligent driver is involved in a motor vehicle accident that causes injury, they may be liable for a more serious charge. It is an offence for someone to cause another person grievous bodily harm by driving negligently on a public street in Tasmania.

Grievous bodily harm is a legal term for serious or life-threatening injuries. A minor cut or a few bruises is not considered grievous bodily harm, but burns or loss of limbs or mobility are likely to meet the definition of grievous bodily harm. While the extent of the injury determines the seriousness of the charge, it is also relevant whether the offender has a poor driving record. A first offender is liable for a maximum fine of ten penalty units and imprisonment of one year. A repeat offender is liable for a fine of 20 penalty units and imprisonment for up to 18 months.

Driver negligence causing death

It is an offence under the Traffic Act to cause the death of another person by driving negligently on a public street in Tasmania. When a driver is at fault in a fatal motor accident, they are at risk of a period of imprisonment. The penalty for a first offender found guilty of this offence is a maximum 10 penalty units and imprisonment for two years. A driver found guilty of a subsequent offence is liable for a fine of up to 20 penalty units and imprisonment for three years.

Charges Under the Criminal Code

In Tasmania, a person who is charged with causing death or bodily harm under the Traffic Act can also face other charges under the Criminal Code 1924. For instance, a person who causes the death of someone else because they drove a motor vehicle in a criminally negligent way can be charged under section 156 of the Criminal Code. A driver has a duty of care to avoid causing danger to human life under section 150, and any breach of this duty amounts to gross or culpable negligence, constituting manslaughter. Typically, a charge of murder or manslaughter attracts a severe penalty and usually a custodial sentence.

However, it is important to note that criminal negligence is quite different to the civil tort of negligence. To be found criminally negligent, the driver must demonstrate a pronounced disregard for the safety of other road users. Juries have historically been reluctant to convict drivers of manslaughter, so the Criminal Code was recently amended to create the lesser offence of causing death by dangerous driving.

Case study

Not every driver found to have negligently caused death will face imprisonment. A Tasmanian bus driver who was recently found guilty of negligent driving causing death avoided a jail sentence. Christine Helen Chatterton was driving an empty bus when she braked to avoid a queue of cars, causing the bus wheels to lock and swerve into another lane and collide with a car. The car’s driver, and his two-year-old daughter, were killed. Magistrate Duvnjak found that the driver’s negligence was on the “lower end of the scale of seriousness”.

Ms Chatterton was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, was not exceeding the speed limit and kept an acceptable distance from other vehicles. Her negligence was found to be restricted to a momentary excessive braking that gave rise to tragic consequences. The defendant had never previously been involved in a motor vehicle accident. Ms Chatterton was found guilty on two counts of causing death by negligent driving and received a three-month suspended sentence. She relinquished her bus driver’s licence.

Please get in touch with Go To Court Lawyers with any questions about negligence driving in Tasmania. Phone our traffic law solicitors on 1300 636 846 for help with advice and representation in court.

Published in

Dec 13, 2022

Nicola Bowes

Solicitor

Dr Nicola Bowes holds a Bachelor of Arts with first-class honours from the University of Tasmania, a Bachelor of Laws with first-class honours from the Queensland University of Technology, and a PhD from The University of Queensland. After a decade of working in higher education, Nicola joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2020.
Nicola Bowes

Nicola Bowes

Solicitor

Dr Nicola Bowes holds a Bachelor of Arts with first-class honours from the University of Tasmania, a Bachelor of Laws with first-class honours from the Queensland University of Technology, and a PhD from The University of Queensland. After a decade of working in higher education, Nicola joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2020.

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