Driving causing bodily harm or death
Section 249 of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to operate vehicles in a manner that is dangerous. To determine if the driving is dangerous, courts will consider all of the circumstances, such as the nature, conditions and use of the roadway being driven on. The Crown must prove that there is a danger to the public, including a potential danger. A passenger in a car is a member of the public. For a dangerous driving conviction, the Crown must prove that the driver intended to drive the vehicle in a manner, when viewed objectively, that amounts to a departure from the standard of care expected from a prudent driver. Courts have held that for dangerous driving, there must be a “marked departure” from normal driving.
Drivers may be charged with dangerous driving in many circumstances which include: excessive speeding; improperly overtaking a vehicle; falling asleep at the wheel; improper lane changes; disobeying traffic signs; failing to properly control the vehicle; street racing; and consuming drugs or alcohol.
In addition to any sentence imposed by the court, a criminal conviction for Dangerous Driving will cause the driver to have their insurance policy “breached” by ICBC. This is because an essential condition of an ICBC insurance policy is that coverage is voided if the driver is convicted of a criminal offence while driving. Needless to say, a convicted driver could be liable to ICBC for thousands, or even millions of dollars to repay the insurer for claims caused as a result of dangerous driving.
The punishment for dangerous driving is significant. Where there are no injuries or deaths, courts can sentence a dangerous driver for up to 5 years in jail. For dangerous driving causing bodily harm or death, drivers face imprisonment for up to 14 years. Upon conviction, the Crown will always seek a driving prohibition, often for many years in serious cases.
Dangerous driving cases, especially those involving bodily harm or death, are matters that will involve thorough police investigations. When traffic accidents result in injuries or death, police accident reconstruction experts will attend the scene to record and measure the aftermath of the crash. Police experts will carefully photograph the scene and take statements from people who may have witnessed the accident. Police experts will analyze items such as tire skid marks and vehicle mechanical conditions and forward reports to Crown counsel.
Another aspect of the aftermath of any dangerous driving charge that results in an accident is that ICBC obliges all drivers to report any accident that they are involved in and to provide a statement to ICBC so that they can determine liability. There is certainly tension in such a situation – the driver has the right to remain silent under the Criminal Code and the Charter, but at the same time, has a duty to make a statement to ICBC under Provincial laws. We have the expertise and skills to assist our clients through the civil ICBC investigation of the accident without compromising their criminal law rights.