Dangerous Driving

Elements of the Offence:

The mens rea for the offence of dangerous driving should be assessed objectively but in the context of all the events surrounding the incident.  The objective test meets the requirements of s. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and was properly applied here.


Negligent driving can be thought of as a continuum that progresses, or regresses, from momentary lack of attention giving rise to civil responsibility through careless driving under a provincial Highway Traffic Act to dangerous driving under the Criminal Code.

Section 233 (now s. 249) of the Criminal Code requires an objective standard.  This standard is quite appropriate given the need to reduce highway carnage.  A consideration of the personal factors essential to determining subjective intent is generally not necessary given the fixed standards of physical and mental well‑being coupled with the basic knowledge of the standard of care required of licensed drivers.


A driver, whose conduct was objectively dangerous, should not be acquitted because he or she was not thinking of his or her manner of driving at the time of the accident.  The nature of driving itself is often so routine and automatic that it is almost impossible to determine a particular state of mind of a driver at any given moment.  The question to be asked, therefore, given that liability for dangerous driving is based on negligence, is whether, viewed objectively, the accused exercised the appropriate standard of care‑‑not whether the accused subjectively intended the consequences of his or her action.  The accused can still raise a reasonable doubt that a reasonable person would have been aware of the risks of his or her conduct.  The test must be applied flexibly in the context of the events surrounding the incident.

The trier of fact must be satisfied that the conduct amounted to a marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the accused’s situation.  If the accused offers an explanation, such as a sudden and unexpected onset of illness, the trier of fact, in order to convict, must be satisfied that a reasonable person in similar circumstances ought to have been aware of the risk and of the danger involved in the conduct manifested by the accused.  A charge to the jury need only follow this reasoning.  It need not be long or complex.  Neither the section nor the offence requires it.


Source: R. v. Hundal, [1993] 1 S.C.R. 867


  • Possibly a Criminal record.
  • An automatic 1 year driver’s licence suspension.
  • Substantive insurance rate increase for at least 5 years


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