Dangerous driving

Dangerous driving, or dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, is one of the most serious driving-related offences.

The concept of ‘dangerous’ is extremely broad.

Depending on the circumstances, it may encompass a wide range of driving behaviours, including:

  • speeding
  • driving while distracted
  • using a mobile telephone while driving
  • drink driving
  • speed racing
  • tailgating or following too closely
  • failing to keep a proper lookout
  • failing to stop or give way.

The legal meaning of ‘dangerous operation’ includes driving in any way that is ‘dangerous to the public’. 

The dangerousness of the driving depends on the circumstances, including time of day, weather, road conditions, type of road and level of traffic.


A circumstance of aggravation is an allegation that increases the applicable maximum penalty.

It’s considered a circumstance of aggravation if you were:

  • driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • driving in a race
  • driving with excessive speed
  • causing the death or grievous bodily harm of a person/s while driving
  • leaving the scene when you reasonably ought to have known the person/s was deceased or injured due to your dangerous driving.

For more information about aggravation, read our article.


The maximum penalty is three years of imprisonment and a mandatory minimum six-month period of driver licence disqualification.

If a circumstance of aggravation is alleged, the maximum penalty is increased to 10–14 years of imprisonment.

It isn’t uncommon for penalties of imprisonment (including actual custody) to be imposed where a person has been killed or injured because of dangerous driving.

A charge of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle may be resolved in the Magistrates Court. 

If a person was killed or injured as a result of the dangerous operation, the matter must proceed in the District Court.

Driving without due care and attention

A related but less serious offence is ‘driving without due care and attention’ (or careless driving). 

This offence carries a maximum penalty of 40 penalty units or six months of imprisonment. There is no mandatory period of driver licence disqualification.

What constitutes ‘carelessness’ depends on the circumstances and conditions at the time. 

A careless driver is one who falls short of displaying the ‘degree of care and attention that a reasonable and prudent driver would exercise’.

Careless driving is sometimes charged as an alternative, lesser offence to dangerous driving. 

In some cases, it may also be possible to negotiate a charge of dangerous driving down to one of careless driving. 

Among other benefits, a conviction for careless driving is a traffic offence, which means it will only appear on your traffic history with Queensland Transport.

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