The Road Traffic Act 1988 was amended with the insertion of Section 1A, an offence of “Causing Serious Injury by Dangerous Driving.” This amendment took effect from 3 December 2012.
The Section defines “serious injury” in Scotland as “severe physical injury”.
It was said that the rationale for the amendment was to fill what was perceived to be a gap between Causing Death by Dangerous Driving (Section 1) and Dangerous Driving (Section 2).
The maximum penalty on a Summary conviction is imprisonment for up to twelve months, a fine of up to £10,000 and automatic disqualification from driving with an obligation to re-sit a driving test.
Under Solemn procedure the maximum period of imprisonment is five years, the fine is unlimited, there is automatic disqualification from driving for a minimum of two years and an obligation to re-sit a driving test.
Although the offence has been in existence for over three years, it would appear that the first conviction in Scotland under Section 1A occurred in Perth Sheriff Court on 15 January 2016.
A Danish driver was fined £8,000, banned from driving for four and a half years and ordered to sit the extended driving test if he sought to drive again in the UK. The driver had a holiday home in Scotland. He had left that property and driven for nearly a mile on the “wrong” side of the road.
According to the Crown, the driver left his home and was going to Edinburgh Airport. He joined the A85 and began driving in the right-hand lane ie, the “wrong” lane. It was said that he travelled 0.7 miles in that lane and then on a bend was in collision with an oncoming vehicle. This was the first vehicle the driver had encountered. The other driver suffered serious injury in terms of Section 1A. She was off work for a year.
The Sheriff said “he has momentarily forgotten he is not driving at home and started driving on the wrong side of the road. He went on to comment that Parliament had decided that it was not just the nature of the driving which had to be taken into account and causing serious injury was an aggravating factor.
Given that this case was disposed of on a plea of Guilty, what might or might not constitute “serious injury” as defined for the purposes of Scotland, was presumably not a matter which came before the Court. It is quite clear however that in considering whether or not there is a contravention of Section 1A, consideration has to be given to both the standard of driving and whether or not the injuries sustained mount to a “severe physical injury”.
Consideration of the standard of driving is an objective test. We can however foresee much greater scope for discussion and dispute over whether or not injuries are sufficiently serious to justify a Section 1A Charge as opposed to a Section 2 Charge.