Driving Offences

Major Driving Offences: Current Sentencing Practices

The Sentencing Advisory Council has examined current sentencing practices for major driving offences.

This project continues the Council’s Current Sentencing Practices series of reports. These reports expand on the data presented in the Council’s Sentencing Snapshots series. The Current Sentencing Practices series has so far examined aggravated burglarycausing injury offences and major drug offences.

Published in June 2015, Major Driving Offences: Current Sentencing Practices examines higher courts sentencing from July 2006 to June 2013 for:

  • culpable driving causing death
  • dangerous driving causing death
  • negligently causing serious injury (where driving-related)
  • dangerous driving causing serious injury.

The report provides detailed information about the types and lengths of sentences imposed for each offence and a profile of offence and offender characteristics.

Driving While Disqualified or Suspended

In 2007, the Council agreed to undertake a study of sentencing options for offenders found guilty of driving while disqualified.

Under the Road Safety Act 1986, the maximum penalty for a first offence of driving while disqualified or suspended is 30 penalty units or imprisonment for 4 months. People who repeatedly drive while their license is disqualified or suspended face a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for 1 month. Victoria is the only state in Australia that has a mandatory sentence of imprisonment for repeat offenders for this offence.

Driving while disqualified or suspended raises both sentencing issues and broader social issues. This behaviour has been shown to increase the risk of accidents and injury, both to these drivers and to the community at large.

The Sentencing Advisory Council released its Driving While Disqualified or Suspended Information Paper in December 2007 and its Driving While Disqualified or Suspended Discussion Paper in June 2008. These papers review research on the causes and consequences of driving while disqualified or suspended and provide information on the incidence of this offence.

The Driving While Disqualified or Suspended Report was released in April 2009.

Negligently Causing Serious Injury 

Negligently causing serious injury (NCSI) arises from offences where the victim is seriously injured but not killed.

In 2007, the then Attorney-General sought the advice of the Sentencing Advisory Council on the adequacy of the maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment for the offence of negligently causing serious injury under section 24 of the Crimes Act 1958, particularly in relation to driving matters.

The offence of NCSI arises when it is established that a person:

  • did or omitted to do something
  • that this act or omission was culpably negligent
  • that the act or omission caused serious injury to another person.

The terms of reference suggested that relevant issues the Council could consider included:

  • the maximum penalties for other offences covering similar behaviour, but where the outcome is more or less serious: for example where the victim is killed
  • the maximum penalties for other offences covering the same outcome (i.e. serious injury), but that require a different state of mind: for example, where the person is reckless
  • the elements of other driving related offences, including relevant penalty levels.

The Council released its Maximum Penalty for Negligently Causing Serious Injury Report in October 2007.

Repeat Drink Driving Offences

In 2005 the Council released a report on the maximum penalty for certain repeat offences against the Road Safety Act 1986.

The Maximum Penalties for Repeat Drink Driving Report analyses the purposes that a statutory maximum penalty should serve, such as providing for the worst cases, reflecting community views about the seriousness of the offence and acting as a general deterrent. The report addresses the extent to which the current maximum penalty serves these functions.

The Council recommended an increase in the statutory maximum penalties for repeat offences, and that penalties be graduated in severity to reflect the accused's degree of intoxication and number of prior convictions. The Council also recommended that the statutory maximum fine for a repeat offence should be increased to be consistent with the increased statutory maximum terms of imprisonment.

The Council’s recommendations were accepted by government and implemented through the Road Legislation (Projects and Road Safety) Act 2006.