What Is Dangerous Driving?

Dangerous driving is the most serious motoring offence besides causing death or injury while behind the wheel, and generally involves aggressive/reckless driver behaviour. This could include speeding, overtaking unsafely, ignoring traffic lights or driving when you’re unfit to do so because of alcohol or drug use.

Read on to find out what different types of dangerous driving there are, the consequences of them and how to keep safe while you’re out on the road.

What’s considered dangerous driving in the UK?


There are many different driving habits which can be considered ‘dangerous’ by the legal system in the UK.

Here’s the main types of driver behaviours which are categorised as dangerous:

  • Speeding or excessive speed (i.e. temporary obstruction in the road makes it dangerous to travel at the speed limit).
  • Racing other cars.
  • Overtaking dangerously (e.g. close to the car in front or narrowly avoiding an oncoming car).
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs.
  • Driving a car with a defect you’re aware of.
  • Ignoring traffic lights.
  • Not indicating when turning, at junctions or roundabouts.

What’s the difference between careless and dangerous driving?

roundabout dangerous

Careless driving is a lesser offence compared with dangerous driving and won’t always be dealt with in court. Sometimes, a fixed penalty notice (FPN) or just a warning can be issued by the police.

The reason for this is that driver actions which are considered careless or without due care are considered more minor breaches of The Highway Code.

Some examples of careless driving include:

  • Lane hogging, hopping or weaving.
  • Using the wrong lane at a roundabout.
  • Handbrake turns.
  • Smoking, eating or drinking while driving.
  • Operating a sat nav/map while driving.
  • Overtaking to force your way into a queue of traffic.

Sentences for careless driving

You can still be summoned to appear in court for driving carelessly, especially if the offence is more serious and a greater fine is needed, or you’re being placed on an educational training course.

Unlike dangerous driving, you can only be fined up to £5,000 and be given 3-9 points on your licence for careless driving. Alternatively, you may be given a discretionary ban (in the most serious of cases) by the powers that be in court, which tends to be around 56 days, but can be longer if they deem it necessary.

If you’re caught doing something careless behind the wheel and no other road user is affected by your actions, then a warning is usually as far as consequences go.

Sentences for dangerous driving

speed camera

The sentence for being convicted of dangerous driving will vary from case to case, but like most serious crimes there’s a mandatory penalty you’ll face for committing it.

Penalty points, a ban and potentially a prison sentence are all punishments for being caught driving dangerously.

Penalty points

The penalty points given to dangerous driving can range from 3-11 depending on the circumstances of the offence.

These points will remain on your driving licence for four years from the date of your conviction.

Remember: If you’ve held your licence for two years or less, six points will see it revoked.

 Is there an automatic ban?

The minimum penalty for a dangerous driving conviction is an automatic 12-month ban from driving. However, this could be extended if the details of your case are severe.

You’ll also need to take a retest before being able to drive again.

Causing death by dangerous driving

In the worst-case scenario, dangerous driving could lead to a fatality, which would lead to a charge of death by dangerous driving.

Because this is an aggravated form of the dangerous driving offence, a prison sentence of 1-3 years and a driving ban of two years is obligatory in these circumstances. For the most serious culpability, imprisonment can be a maximum of 14 years.

How to report dangerous driving

report dangerous driving

If you have a dashcam, you can simply download the evidence to a computer device and send it straight to the police via an online portal if you have a run-in with a dangerous driver.

Not every driver has a dashcam fitted in their car, however. If you don’t have a dash cam, then you can still report a dangerous driver by doing the following:

  • Call the police on 101.
  • Give them the following details (or as many as possible).
    • Vehicle registration.
    • Colour, make and model.
    • Time/place of the incident.
    • Any other details about what happened and description of the driver if possible.

5 tips to avoid dangerous driving

It’s important that you keep yourself, your passengers and other drivers safe while out on the road, which is every driver’s duty of responsibility when jumping behind the wheel of a car.

A lot of dangerous driving incidents are caused by anger and frustration while driving. It can be difficult not to become frustrated if you witness bad driving, but there are ways you can maintain your composure and not be a dangerous driver.

Here’s five tips to ensure you stay safe while driving.

1. Overtake considerately

Dangerously overtaking or undertaking other vehicles are two common behaviours that fall under the dangerous driving offence.

If a car in front of you is travelling below the speed limit and you wish to overtake them, the best way to do this is by first dropping back to allow a gap between your cars. This way, you’ll be able to see whether any vehicles are coming towards you in the other lane.

Once you see that it’s clear to overtake, check your mirrors and blindspot, signal that you’re moving out and then move out and make progress in overtaking the car.

Before pulling back into the lane, check your other mirror and blind spot to make sure that you’ve got plenty of room to manoeuvre back in without cutting up the vehicle.

2. Indicate in good time

It’s generally understood that you should indicate around 30 meters before a turn, unless there are other turns earlier which could make it misleading to do this. When you do indicate, make sure that the self-cancelling mechanism in your steering wheel doesn’t turn it off before you turn, otherwise you’ll need to signal twice to any new cars which may have come up behind you between signals.

3. Give way at roundabouts

When you approach a roundabout, it should be at a speed which allows you to stop safely and give way to any cars approaching from the right. Around 10mph is considered sensible and will ensure you don’t have to make a ‘fight or flight’ decision at the last minute, which could lead to heavy, dangerous braking or a collision with vehicles from the right.

4. Take heed of traffic lights

If a traffic light turns amber at a moment which makes it unsafe to stop (i.e. your braking could cause the car behind to run into the back of you) then you should carry on driving. Otherwise, you should treat it like a red light and stop.

Sometimes there may be temporary traffic lights which are operated multiple ways, which you should be wary of as they can take time to change to green. If another driver tells you that the lights are broken, air on the side of caution and treat it as a regular junction, being mindful of other road users.

5. Don’t speed

One of the biggest causes of dangerous driving is excess speed, which often leads to loss of control.

While there can be times where speed limits quickly change from fast to slow in a short distance, you should always be wary of the limit when you’re driving in different areas.

Speed signs, traffic sign recognition on modern vehicles and even street furniture (e.g. lampposts will often signify a 30mph or 40mph zone) can give you a good idea of what the speed limit is.

Want to know more about road safety? Then check out our guides page for more information.

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