Clarity Law

Specialist Traffic Law Firm Queensland
Tuesday, 06 September 2016 17:49

What is the difference between careless driving and dangerous driving?

Written by




Driving laws in Queensland are designed to keep everyone on the road safe. However, not all driving offences are created equal. Knowing the difference between careless driving and dangerous driving can help you understand the potential consequences you might face and how to respond if you are charged.


Careless Driving in Queensland

Definition and Legal Implications

Careless driving, also known as driving without due care and attention, is considered a traffic offence. It occurs when a driver fails to exercise the necessary care or attention while operating a vehicle. Though it's not a criminal offence, it can still result in significant penalties, including fines and even a jail sentence under certain circumstances such as when death or grievous bodily harm occurs.  The law in regards to careless driving can be found in section 83 of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 (Qld).


Common Examples and Scenarios

  • Skidding on a wet road and hitting a gutter or tree.
  • Colliding with another vehicle because of being distracted by the radio.
  • Accidents involving pedestrians or other road users due to inattentiveness.


What to Do if Charged

If you're charged with careless driving, it’s essential to seek legal advice immediately. You may be able to avoid disqualification from driving, although a mandatory loss of 3 demerit points applies if you plead guilty or are found guilty. If this breaches your good driving behaviour period, you might be eligible for a special hardship licence. For more information, you can visit our hardship licences page.


Dangerous Driving in Queensland

Definition and Legal Implications

Dangerous driving is a more severe offence and is classified as a criminal charge. It occurs when a driver operates a vehicle in a manner that is considered dangerous to the public. Unlike careless driving, the penalties for dangerous driving are much harsher and can include significant fines, lengthy licence disqualifications, and imprisonment.  The law can be found in Section 328A of the Criminal Code (Qld).


Examples and Scenarios

  1. Failing to see a motorcycle before entering an intersection and unfortunately striking and killing the motorcyclist

  2. Being temporarily distracted causing the car to run off the road into the other lane of traffic causing grievous bodily harm to passengers in another vehicle

  3. Falling asleep at the wheel resulting in a collision with a power pole and serious injuries to the passenger in the car

  4. Exiting the road after missing a turn, then turning too sharply in the dirt causing the vehicle to roll

  5. Driving at excessive speed

  6. Driving through a roundabout at excessive speed and cutting off other motorists

  7. Striking and killing a cyclist after traveling too close to the vehicle in front


Distinction Between Dangerous and Careless Driving

The key difference lies in the intent and the level of risk posed. Dangerous driving involves a higher degree of recklessness and poses a greater risk to public safety and thus has a much harsher penalty.

Dangerous driving is generally reserved where the actions of the driver could be considered dangerous rather than merely careless or without due care and attention.  In deciding whether the driving was dangerous the court looks at the speed the vehicle was driven and whether the driving was dangerous to the public having regard to all the circumstances including:

  • the nature, condition and use of where the accident occurred

  • the nature and condition of the vehicle

  • the number of persons, vehicles or other objects that are, or might reasonably be expected to be in the are

  • If drugs or alcohol are in the drivers system


The expression ‘operates a vehicle dangerously’ generally does not require any specific state of mind from the driver as an essential element of the offense. A motorist might believe they are driving carefully yet still be guilty of dangerous driving. ‘Dangerously’ should be understood in its ordinary sense as something presenting a real risk of injury or damage. The ordinary meaning of ‘dangerous’ refers to a manner or speed of driving that poses a risk to others.

For driving to be considered dangerous, there must be an element that goes beyond mere carelessness and subjects the public to a risk greater than what is normally associated with driving, even by someone occasionally driving without due care and attention. Momentary lapses in attention that result in danger to the public are not however excluded from the offense of dangerous driving simply because they are brief.

The consequences of the defendant's actions or inactions cannot increase the criminality of their driving. The dangerous nature of the driving does not depend on the resultant damage.


Why Does it Matter if the Driving was Dangerous or Careless ?

It matters in two important ways;

  1. The penalty for dangerous driving in Queensland is so much harsher than careless driving

  2. Dangerous driving is a criminal offence


If the driving was in fact careless but the driver was charged with dangerous driving then this gives grounds to try and negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce the charge.

We have a whole article on negotiating with the prosecutor for traffic matters however in general negotiations with a prosecutor would fall into the following categories;

  • Negotiations regarding the facts of what occurred

  • Negotiations regarding a lower charge to careless driving (if charged with dangerous driving)

  • Negotiations regarding withdrawing the charge entirely


Summary of Fey Facts

Key Differences Between Careless and Dangerous Driving

  • Severity of the Offence: Careless driving is less severe and is typically treated as a traffic violation, while dangerous driving is a criminal charge.
  • Penalties: Dangerous driving carries more severe penalties, including higher fines, longer licence suspensions, and potential imprisonment.
  • Intent: Careless driving often results from a lapse in attention, whereas dangerous driving involves a higher degree of recklessness.



Understanding the difference between careless and dangerous driving is crucial for all drivers in Queensland. Both offences carry significant penalties, but dangerous driving is far more severe. If you find yourself charged with either offence, seeking legal advice is essential.


How do I get more help or engage you to act for me? 

We have been operating since 2010 and undertaken hundreds of dangerous driving charges throughout South East Queensland.

If you want to engage us or just need further information or advice then you can either;

  1. Use our contact form and we will contact you by email or phone at a time that suits you

  2. Call us on 1300 952 255 seven days a week, 7am to 7pm

  3. Click here to select a time for us to call you back

  4. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  5. Send us a message on Facebook Messenger


We are a no pressure law firm, we are happy to provide information to assist you, if you want to engage us then great, if not then you at least have more information about dangerous or careless driving. You won’t be chased or hounded to engage us.  Remember its critical you get advice before going to court, a dangerous driving or careless driving charge will have an impact on you, your family and your employment or business.  

Last modified on Friday, 07 June 2024 10:08
Steven Brough

Steven Brough is the Founder of Clarity Law.  He is one of the most experienced traffic lawyers in Queensland having appeared in court many thousands of time throughout Queensland since 2010.  He has authored over 100 articles about every aspect of traffic law in Queensland.

www.drivinglaw.com.au/about-us/our-team/121-steven-brough.html | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.