While dangerous driving and careless driving may sound like similar offences, there’s a big difference between the two charges. Dangerous driving is the more serious of the two offences and can result in significant jail time, high fines, and the creation of a criminal record.

What Is Careless Driving?

Careless driving is an offence under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act (HTA). It carries a maximum imprisonment term of two years, up to five years’ licence suspension, and six demerit points on your driving record. However, it’s a non-criminal charge, meaning you will not have a criminal record after being convicted or pleading guilty to the offence.

On the other hand, dangerous driving—also known as dangerous operation of a vehicle—is a criminal charge under the Criminal Code of Canada. If you are convicted or plead guilty to dangerous driving, you will have a criminal record in addition to serving time, paying fines, and paying more for your insurance.

Examples of careless or dangerous driving include:

  • Street racing
  • Drifting or swerving between lanes
  • Driving on the sidewalk
  • Failing to obey road signs
  • Driving with bulky, unsecured, or shifting cargo
  • Following too closely
  • Collisions

Any irresponsible driving could fall under the definition of careless or dangerous driving. Some offences could be charged under either law, making it vital for defendants to have an experienced traffic defence team that can get the charges reduced.

What Is Dangerous Driving?

In 2018, federal laws were changed regarding the dangerous operation of motor vehicles. Drivers are now included under legislation for dangerous operation of any conveyance—such as boats, trains, and even aircraft.

Criminal Code section 320.13 provides definitions and penalties for:

Dangerous operation.

Anyone who operates a conveyance in a manner that, having regard to all of the circumstances, is dangerous to the public commits this offence.

Operation causing bodily harm.

Anyone who operates a conveyance in a manner that, having regard to all of the circumstances, is dangerous to the public and causes bodily injury to another person as a result commits this offence.

Operation causing death.

Anyone who operates a conveyance in a manner that, having regard to all of the circumstances, is dangerous to the public and causes the death of another person as a result commits this offence.

Penalties for Dangerous Driving

Dangerous driving can result in a wide variety of penalties based on the specifics of your case, such as your age, your previous driving record, and whether your behaviour caused any injuries. Some potential aggravating circumstances that could affect your sentence include:

Indictment.

A summary conviction for dangerous operation results in a maximum jail sentence of two years, while conviction on indictment may result in imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Failure to stop.

If you failed to stop after an accident or attempted to flee from a police officer, you will be charged with an indictable offence of dangerous driving and liable to face up to 10 years imprisonment.

High BAC.

Minimum fines increase along with a driver’s blood alcohol concentration. For a first offence, a driver whose BAC is equal to or exceeds 120 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood but is less than 160 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood must pay a fine of not less than $1,500. A driver whose BAC is equal to or exceeds 160 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood must pay a fine of not less than $2,000.

Bodily harm.

Dangerous operation resulting in physical harm carries a maximum prison term of 14 years, while dangerous operation causing death carries a potential life sentence.

Criminal negligence.

A driver who shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons can be held criminally negligent. For example, stunt driving that results in a fatal collision is punishable by possible life imprisonment.

Let Us Advise You During This Stressful Time

In order to get a conviction for dangerous operation, prosecutors must prove that the driver was aware that their actions posed an increased risk of danger to the public. In addition, many mitigating factors can result in reduced sentencing or conviction under the lesser charge of careless driving.

Have You Been Charged With Careless Driving In Ontario?

If you’ve been charged with careless driving in Ontario you should contact us as soon as possible. We have skill and experience in helping drivers just like you respond to accusations of careless driving and provide free, confidential consultations to empower you to fight your charges. We help drivers throughout Ontario including CambridgeGeorgetownLondonWindsor and from our home office in KitchenerContact us online or call us directly at 1.866.591.9206 or text us a copy of your ticket to 226.240.2480.