News & Insights: Personal Injury

Dangerous Driving Conviction for ‘Close Pass’ Case Upheld

29 October 2019

A driver, who had been convicted of the offence of Dangerous Driving in May 2019, has lost his Appeal in Northern Ireland for the conviction to be overturned and classed as the less offence of Careless Driving. A media report of the decision can be viewed here.
This represents an important decision for Cyclists in Northern Ireland as many previous similar cases were dealt with as Careless Driving offences.
Careless Driving is defined as driving which falls below the standard of a competent and careful driver under the Road Traffic (NI) Order 1995. Dangerous driving applies if such driving would be regarded as dangerous by a competent and careful driver. The importance in the distinction is that the penalties that apply are significantly more serious in respect of the Dangerous Driving offence. Dangerous Driving convictions often result in disqualification and can even result in imprisonment.
There was no previous case law and the matter ran before Omagh Court. The facts of the case were that the Defendant Motorist had passed a group of Cyclists, passing some by as little as two inches. He was reported to the PSNI who prosecuted him for Dangerous Driving. Having heard the evidence, including the less than remorseful behaviour of the Motorist after the incident, the Court was satisfied the conviction of Dangerous Driving would stand.
The decision has been met with support from Cycling organisations. Tommy McCague, Chairman of Cycling Ulster, who are sponsored by O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors, said that “Cycling Ulster welcome this as a significant decision as case law now in Northern Ireland recognises that the close pass of a cyclist by a motorist is dangerous driving.
“Incidents like this which result in a court case are distressing and are unfortunately a common occurrence for many cyclists in the province.
“I am hopeful that going forward this case will result in greater care being taking by motorists while passing cyclists.”
This represents an important decision for cycling safety in Northern Ireland. If any greater deterrent was needed, Motorists now know that the consequences of failing to respect Cyclists on the road can be extremely serious. Hopefully this will translate to fewer accidents between Cyclists and Motorists in future.

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