Skip to main content
Dangerous driving causing death or grievous bodily harm

Dangerous driving causing death or grievous bodily harm

The most common offences relating to driving that the ODPP prosecutes in the District Court are dangerous driving that results in death or grievous bodily harm.
The driving is dangerous if, at the time, the driver was: 

  • under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
  • driving at a dangerous speed; or
  • driving in a manner that is dangerous.

The offence is aggravated if the driver:

  • had a “prescribed concentration of alcohol” of 0.15 or more;
  • was driving at a speed of 45km per hour or more above the speed limit;
  • was driving to escape pursuit by a police officer; or
  • was under the influence of a drug or a combination of drugs and alcohol and his or her ability to drive was substantially impaired.

Grievous bodily harm means really serious bodily injury, that results in any permanent or serious disfiguring of the person.

Other driving offences such as driving without a licence, speeding, negligent, reckless or menacing driving are under Road Transport Act 2013 and are prosecuted by the Police in the Local Court.

Negligent driving is usually charged as a “back up” offence to dangerous driving offences, and if a person dies because of the driving the accused faces an increased penalty. An accused can be convicted of a “back up” offence if the ODPP isn’t able to prove the main, more serious, charge.
Driving offences also represent a significant proportion of the work undertaken by the ODPP in appeals from the Local Court to the District Court.


There is a guideline judgement to assist the court in sentencing for dangerous driving causing death and grievous bodily harm. A guideline judgement provides a guide or “sounding board” for the sentencing judge but is not binding.

The guideline judgement, R v Whyte (2002) 55 NSWLR 252; [2002] NSWCCA 343, notes that a typical case of dangerous driving causing death or grievous bodily harm includes the following features:

  • young offender
  • of good character with no or limited prior convictions
  • death or permanent injury to a single person
  • the victim is a stranger
  • no or limited injury to the driver or the driver’s passengers
  • genuine remorse
  • plea of guilty of limited utilitarian value.

A custodial sentence is usually appropriate unless the offender has a low level of moral culpability, as in the case of momentary inattention or misjudgement​. The following features may aggravate the offence:

  • extent and nature of the injuries inflicted
  • number of people put at risk
  • degree of speed
  • degree of intoxication or of substance abuse
  • erratic or aggressive driving
  • competitive driving or showing off
  • length of the journey during which others were exposed to risk
  • ignoring of warnings
  • escaping police pursuit
  • degree of sleep deprivation
  • failing to stop.