Dangerous driving is something that we have all undoubtedly witnessed on UK roads at one point or another, but without the police around to do anything about it, you may have felt powerless. However, if you see somebody driving a car in a manner that puts themselves, the occupants of their vehicle and other road users at risk, you are well within your rights to report them to the police for breaking the law and causing a serious road safety risk.
In this guide, we explain what constitutes dangerous driving and how to report this. By reporting someone for driving dangerously, this can help to make UK roads safer for everyone. We also set out the potential consequences of dangerous driving for the offending motorist.
What is classed as dangerous driving?
Under section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, a person who drives a motor vehicle dangerously on either a road or other public place will be guilty of an offence.
Section 2A of the 1988 Act then goes on to provide a statutory definition of dangerous driving. This states that a motorist is to be regarded as driving dangerously if the way in which they drive falls far below that which would be expected of a competent and careful driver ‘and’ it would be obvious to any competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous. Importantly, however, a motorist does not have to cause an accident, injure anyone or damage any property to be charged with this offence.
How does careless driving differ to dangerous driving?
If you are thinking about reporting someone for the dangerous manner in which they have driven their vehicle, it is important to know the difference between careless and dangerous driving. Careless driving is essentially where the way in which a motorist has driven their vehicle fell below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, while dangerous driving is where the standard of driving falls ‘far’ below an acceptable standard.
As such, there is just one word separating dangerous from careless driving: the word ‘far’, but dangerous driving is also classed as far more serious. This is where it would be obvious to any competent and careful motorist that driving in that way would be dangerous.
There are various scenarios that might amount to careless driving. In each case, the motorist will either be regarded as driving without due care and attention or, alternatively, driving without reasonable consideration for other road users. Common examples of careless driving can include overtaking on the inside, running a red light, tailgating, sudden breaking, or even driving while distracted, such as the driver changing their radio station or using their mobile phone. However, the last example could also constitute a breach of requirements as to control of the vehicle and therefore an entirely separate offence. In some cases, it may even be serious enough to warrant a charge of dangerous driving.
In contrast, common examples of dangerous driving can include speeding, racing or driving aggressively, dangerously overtaking, deliberately ignoring road signs and signals, intentionally oversteering so as to cause the car to drift, or riding the car around in tight circles, often resulting in circular tyre-marks on the road reminiscent of doughnuts.
Importantly, a motorist will also be guilty of dangerous driving if it would be obvious to any competent and careful driver that driving the vehicle in its condition at the time would be dangerous. This means that a motorist can be convicted for dangerous driving based not only on the standard of their driving, but also the condition of their vehicle. This could include, for example, where someone drives a vehicle that they know has defective brakes, defective steering, defective or bald tyres, or even a cracked windscreen.
How do you report dangerous driving to the police?
If you believe that you have witnessed a motorist driving dangerously — putting themselves, their passengers, as well as other motorists and pedestrians at risk — and you feel compelled to do something about it, you should dial 101, the non-emergency police number. You can also call 999 if dangerous driving is in progress and you think that the driver could cause themselves or others a serious injury. However, you should always make sure you are not driving yourself and are in a safe place when you call.
If you are reporting the incident once you have arrived safely at your destination, you might also want to check the local police force’s website for an online form or reporting portal where you can submit the relevant information about the incident in question.
Many forces are now part of Operation SNAP or a similar process. This is the police response to increasing submissions of photographic and video evidence relating to motoring offences that members of the public have witnessed, where reports have previously been submitted to the police in all sorts of ways. It is essentially a streamlined process developed to deal with these types of reports, where the public can submit digital footage showing potential moving traffic offences which the police may then decide to investigate.
If you report dangerous driving to the police, your report and personal details will be confidential, although the police may contact you for further information. However, you may be asked if you would be willing to attend court and give evidence, at which stage the offending driver would become aware of your name but not your address or other details.
What information should you give to the police when reporting dangerous driving?
If you witness someone driving dangerously, you can report this to the police. However, for anything to be done about this you will need to be able to identify the vehicle so that the motorist can be tracked down if the police decide to investigate the matter. You will also need to clearly describe how the vehicle was being driven. The more information that you can provide, the more likely it is that the police will act upon your report.
When reporting an incident of dangerous driving to the police, as an absolute minimum, you will need to provide the police with the following information:
- the vehicle registration number
- the make, model and colour of the vehicle
- the time and location of the incident
- any other information that could identify the driver or vehicle, for example, by a company name and/or logo on the car or van.
If you are able to provide dashcam footage or have taken a video of the incident, this can go a long way towards securing a conviction, where successful prosecutions can often follow from members of the public taking photographs or capturing footage of drivers committing motoring offences and handing these over to the police. In some cases, it has also been known for the police to secure a conviction from footage uploaded to social media sites by the motorist themselves. In either of these scenarios, provided the police have enough information to identify the exact area where the incident was said to have taken place, they may be able to identify CCTV footage to corroborate the incident.
Importantly, however, when reporting a potential motoring offence to the police, your own actions and driving standards will also be reviewed as part of their investigation. As such, you must ensure that if you are using a mobile device to take footage of a motorist driving dangerously, that you are not driving yourself. This is because using a mobile device while in charge of a vehicle would mean you were also committing a motoring offence.
What happens after reporting dangerous driving?
Having reported an incident of dangerous driving to the police, your report and any footage will be reviewed by a police officer who will take all factors into consideration in weighing up the severity of the incident and what action, if any, to take. In making this decision they will also look at whether the driver and/or vehicle have been reported before. There are several options available to the police, depending on the circumstances, including:
- passing the report to the relevant Road Policing Unit for them to take any action that they feel appropriate
- submitting your report to the police database of dangerous driving reports, which provides a history of any allegations made against the vehicle and its registered owner
- sending a letter of warning to the vehicle’s registered owner.
If a decision is made by the Road Policing Unit to investigate the matter further, they will endeavour to make contact with the driver. On conclusion of their investigations, the police will then make a decision, based on the evidence they have in support of the commission of the offence, as to whether to charge the motorist with dangerous driving.
However, there are a number of disposal methods available to the police, depending on the nature of the offence. Instead of being prosecuted, the driver could be offered a driver awareness course or be given a fixed penalty notice for the lesser offence of careless driving. In some cases, the police may decide to take no action at all if the evidence is not sufficient to prove the driver’s identity or the commission of a motoring offence.
What are the penalties for dangerous driving?
If a conviction is secured, the penalties for dangerous driving can be severe. These include between 3 to 11 points on the motorist’s licence, a fine, a minimum 12-month driving ban and up to 2 years’ in prison. Further, if the driver has had two or more disqualifications for 56 days or more in the last 3 years, the mandatory minimum ban must be at least 2 years.
In addition to the offence of dangerous driving itself, there are also two separate but related motoring offences. Under section 1 of the 1988 Act, where a person causes the death of someone else by driving a motor vehicle dangerously on either a road or other public place, they will be guilty of causing death by dangerous driving. Similarly, under section 1A, a person who causes serious injury to another person by driving a motor vehicle dangerously, they will be guilty of the offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
As with dangerous driving, these offences can also attract between 3 to 11 points, a fine, a driving ban and imprisonment, although where a motorist has caused either death or serious injury, the starting point for sentencing will be a prison term. The maximum sentence on indictment for causing serious injury by dangerous driving is 5 years’ in prison, whilst for causing death by dangerous driving the maximum custodial term is 14 years. In either case, there is also a minimum 2-year ban, with a compulsory extended re-test.
Importantly, in cases of death by dangerous driving, given the potentially lengthy custodial sentence that is likely to be imposed, the offence is triable on indictment only. This means that the case can only be heard by the Crown Court, not the Magistrates’ Court, and if the offending driver pleads “not guilty” to the charge, this will result in a trial by jury.
Sentencing guidelines for dangerous driving
Under the sentencing guidelines for the offence of dangerous driving, the court must first identify the appropriate starting point, assessing the seriousness of the offence, where the sentencing range for various different scenarios is set out below:
- a single incident where there was little or no damage or risk of personal injury: a low to high level community order, together with disqualification from driving for 12-15 months;
- a single incident where there was little or no damage or risk of personal injury but the offender was a disqualified driver, or an incident(s) involving excessive speed or showing off, especially in a built-up area or on busy roads: a high level community order to 26 weeks’ custody, together with disqualification from driving for 15-24 months;
- prolonged bad driving involving deliberate disregard for the safety of others, or an incident(s) involving excessive speed or showing off by a disqualified driver, especially in a built-up area or on busy roads, including while being pursued by police: to be heard before the Crown Court only for trial and/or sentencing.
Before deciding on an appropriate sentence within each range, the court will also take into account any aggravating and mitigating factors. Aggravating factors could include carrying passengers, and causing injury or damage, whilst mitigating factors could include driving dangerously because of a genuine emergency, genuine remorse and an early guilty plea.
Report dangerous driving FAQs
Can I report someone for dangerous driving?
If you witness a motorist driving dangerously, you can report this to the police. However, for anything to be done about this you will need to be able to identify the vehicle and clearly describe how this was being driven.
How do I report someone to the DVLA anonymously?
You may want to contact the DVLA and report someone anonymously, for example, if you have concerns about their ability to drive safely because of a medical condition or disability. You can do this by phoning DVLA’s customer service number.
How do I report reckless driving near me?
If you believe you have witnessed a motorist driving recklessly, putting themselves, their passengers, as well as other motorists and pedestrians at risk, and you feel compelled to do something about it, you should dial 101, the non-emergency police number.
What constitutes dangerous driving?
Dangerous driving is where the standard of driving falls far below the standard that should be expected of a competent and careful driver. Examples of dangerous driving include excessive speeding, racing or driving aggressively, as well as dangerously overtaking.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.