You might be surprised to learn that Toronto is the safest city for driving in Ontario. At least, according to research conducted by insurance comparison site MyChoice, which analyzed three years of accident and traffic ticket numbers to rank each municipality’s driving safety. According to the study, Brantford was deemed the most dangerous Ontario city to drive in because 18.8% of its drivers have driving infractions, and 15.5% have accidents listed on their records. Among Toronto drivers, 6.17% have a driving infraction, and 6.13% have an accident on their driving record.
Driving, it should be noted, is inherently dangerous no matter where you are because the speed and weight of a motor vehicle combine to create a moving hazard when operated unsafely. Thus, the need for traffic laws and tickets to encourage safe driving and penalize unsafe motor vehicle operation. The powers that be even have an infraction that covers dangerous driving. Along with DUI, dangerous driving carries the most significant penalties among all driving offences regulated by the federal and provincial governments.
The Greater Toronto Area traffic ticket lawyers of Mass Tsang will tell you that a dangerous driving conviction can result in steep fines, driver’s license suspension, jail term, possible criminal record, and other penalties, depending on the circumstances. If you’re facing dangerous driving charges, you should consult an experienced traffic violation lawyer — like those at Mass Tsang — to help ensure that a conviction will not upend your life. Let’s further explore the dangerous driving offence and how your lawyer can help you fight the charges in court.
What Exactly is Dangerous Driving According to the Law?
Section 320.13 (1) of the Canadian Criminal Code defines dangerous driving as:
“Everyone commits an offence who operates a conveyance in a manner that, having regard to all of the circumstances, is dangerous to the public.”
Section 320.12 (2) uses the same language to cover dangerous driving that causes bodily harm to another person, while Section 320.13 (3) uses the same to cover the death of another person.
Given the notable subjectiveness of the federal dangerous driving definition, comparing it to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act’s careless driving charge might prove illuminating. Section 130 of the Act defines careless driving as anyone “who drives a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway.” As with dangerous driving, there are also provincial charges to cover careless driving causing bodily harm and death.
The difference between the federal dangerous driving and provincial careless driving laws is based on the degree of potential danger the driving behaviour poses to others and on intent. Careless driving is usually characterized as unintentional, and the carelessness of the driving would not be enough on its own to represent a significant threat to others. Dangerous driving involves the deliberate disregard for the safety of others and driving behaviour that represents a distinct significant threat to others absent other factors. In fact, to secure a criminal conviction for dangerous driving, the Crown must prove intent by showing that the driver knew or should have known that their driving behaviour could cause significant harm to others.
Driving behaviours that can lead to dangerous driving charges include, but are not limited to:
- Excessive speeding.
- Racing other vehicles.
- Aggressive and/or reckless driving, such as tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, passing in the breakdown lane, etc.
- Ignoring traffic signals and/or signs.
- Failing to yield to other vehicles or pedestrians.
- Distracted driving.
- Driving with an unsafe mechanical issue or failing to properly maintain the vehicle.
When deciding whether to lay careless or reckless driving charges, police must make a subjective evaluation of the situation to determine the threat level posed by the driver and the degree of intent.
For example, If you get pulled over for exceeding the speed limit by 15 km/h, you’ll probably only get a speeding ticket. However, if you fail to keep in your lane while speeding, an officer might decide to charge you with careless driving. The officer might lay dangerous driving charges if you were reckless about keeping in the lane. If your speed was 40 km or more over the limit, an officer can charge you with stunt driving, which also carries harsh penalties. However, if your control of the vehicle was questionable and you posed a threat to other people, it could warrant the more severe dangerous driving charge.
The bottom line is that with any apparently reckless driving behaviours, a police officer will likely consider dangerous driving charges if you posed a significant threat to others and your actions seemed intentional to some degree.
A Real-World Dangerous Driving Example
A London, Ontario truck driver was recently convicted of dangerous driving causing death based on what the judge called the driver’s “cavalier approach” to his truck driving job. The judge ruled that the following driving behaviours constituted dangerous driving:
- Travelling on a road on which heavy trucks are prohibited.
- Driving a truck that was 13% overloaded.
- Failing to conduct the day’s 23-point truck inspection as required by Ontario law.
- Failing to obey traffic signs.
The Penalties for Dangerous Driving
For the dangerous driving causing death conviction, the truck driver faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a minimum sentence of a $1,000 fine. Given the egregious driving behaviours that led to the death, we assume that the driver will face some prison time, but we highly doubt it will be a life sentence. To our knowledge, no Canadian court has yet handed down a life sentence for dangerous driving.
Under the Criminal Code, the maximum punishment for dangerous driving is 10 years imprisonment when charged as an indictable offence. If charged as a summary conviction offence, the maximum sentence is two years in jail.
A conviction of dangerous driving causing bodily harm carries a maximum 14-year prison term and a minimum $1,000 fine when charged under indictment. As a summary conviction offence, the maximum punishment is a $5,000 fine and/or two years imprisonment.
A conviction of any dangerous driving, when charged as an indictable offence, typically results in a criminal record. Depending on the circumstances, the charges can also lead to driver’s license suspension under Ontario’s Highway Act, demerit points on your driving record, and a hefty increase in car insurance premiums.
Turn to Mass Tsang for Traffic Violation Expertise
If you’re facing dangerous driving charges in the Greater Toronto Area, don’t risk the potentially severe penalties that could be handed down with a conviction. Experienced traffic violation lawyers are adept at negotiating with the Crown to secure withdrawn or reduced charges. They can also mount a robust defence to fight the charges at trial by challenging the alleged intent and severity of the threat to others posed by the driving behaviour(s).
The traffic violation lawyers of Mass Tsang have helped 1,000s of Ontario motorists successfully dispute the full range of driving offences. To help beat a dangerous driving charge or other traffic violation in the Greater Toronto Area, contact us today for a free consultation.