The Offence of Reckless Driving in New South Wales

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Dangerous Driving

A man allegedly detected driving at 170km/h over the speed limit has had his licence suspended on-the-spot and charged with driving furiously, recklessly, or in a manner or at a speed dangerous to the public; which is also known as ‘reckless driving’.

According to police, highway patrol officers detected the car travelling at 280km/h in a 110km/h zone on the Hume Highway, near Mittagong in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

The car was pulled over and the alleged driver, a 22 year old man, has been issued with a court attendance notice to appear at Moss Vale Local Court next month.

The offence of reckless driving in New South Wales

Driving furiously, recklessly, or in a manner or at a speed dangerous to the public; or reckless driving, is an offence under section 117(2) of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW).

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You drove a motor vehicle, and
  2. Your manner of driving was dangerous.

The courts have found that driving was dangerous if it was, “[i]n a real sense potentially dangerous to a human being or human beings who as a member or members of the public may be upon or in the vicinity of the roadway on which the driving is taking place”.

Your driving must have “create[d] a danger, real or potential, to the public”. When determining whether the offence has occurred the court must consider:

  1. The nature, condition and use of the road at the time,
  2. The amount of traffic on the road at the time, or which might reasonably be expected on the road at that time, and
  3. Any obstructions or hazards on the road at the time.


If it is your first major traffic offence in the past 5 years the maximum penalty is:

  1. 9 months in prison,
  2. A 3 year ‘automatic’ licence disqualification, which the court can reduce to 12 months, and
  3. A fine of $2,200.

If it is your second or more major traffic offence in the past 5 years the maximum penalty is:

  1. 12 months in prison,
  2. A 5 year automatic licence disqualification, which the court can reduce to 2 years, and
  3. A fine of $3,300.

However, there will be no criminal record, licence disqualification or fine where the court deals with you by way of a ‘non conviction order’, such as a section 10(1)(a) dismissal or a conditional release order without a conviction

Legal defences to the charge include duress, necessity and automatism.

On-the-spot driver licence suspensions

An immediate driver licence suspension, also known as an on-the-spot suspension, is available to police officers in New South Wales in a range of situations.

These situations are listed in section 224(1) of the Road Transport Act 2013 and apply to the following alleged offences:

  1. Driving offences causing death or GBH,
  2. Drink driving,
  3. Driving under the influence,
  4. Street racing,
  5. Aggravated burnout,
  6. Refusing or failing a breath analysis or blood test,
  7. Wilfully altering blood alcohol concentration,
  8. Speeding by more than 45km/h (not camera detected),
  9. L or P plater speeding by more than 30km/h (not camera detected), and
  10. L Plater driving while unaccompanied.

Appealing an on-the-spot driver licence suspension

Immediate licence suspensions are ‘appealable decisions’ under section 267 of the Road Transport Act.

An appeal must be filed in a New South Wales Local Court within 28 days of receiving the Notice of Suspension.

Under section 268 of the Act, the Local Court has the power to:

  1. Set aside the suspension,
  2. Vary the suspension,
  3. Confirm the suspension, or
  4. Make any other order ‘as seems just to the Court in the circumstances’.

Section 268(5) stipulates that the court is not to vary or set aside an immediate suspension unless it is satisfied that there are ‘exceptional circumstances’ which justify doing so, and in making that decision the court is not permitted to take into account the circumstances of the offence itself.

Rather, the court will look at other factors including the type of offence alleged or charged, the appellant’s driving record and his or her need for a licence.

You are not permitted to drive until the appeal is determined by the court.

Young people at risk on our roads 

The age of the man has reignited the discussion around the fact that young men are more likely to be involved in road fatalities. 

So far this year. there have been 155 male and 48 female road fatalities across the state, according to Transport for NSW. 

Between 2011 and 2021, almost three times the number of men died in road accidents when compared with women.

Further statistics compiled by The Australasian College of Road Safety’s president, emeritus professor Ann Williamson, show that drivers under the age of 25 account for almost 25% of car accidents in NSW, despite only representing about 15% of all drivers in the state.

Controversial proposal to ban young men from obtaining driver licences

In September, the NSW Government confirmed it was considering a controversial proposal to ban young men from getting their driver licences before the age of 21 years.

The proposal was put forward in the wake of a tragic accident in Buxton, south-west of Sydney, in which five teenagers died. The 18 year old driver, who survived, is facing five separate charges of dangerous driving occasioning death. 

Such a proposal would not be easy to implement given its gender bias, but road safety experts say that the statistics speak volumes – young men are at higher risk of dying on our roads than in any other setting – and we need to do more to keep all young drivers safe on our roads, at the same time as ensuring road safety for all road users. 

Going to court for a traffic offence?

If you are going to court for a traffic offence, call or email Sydney Criminal Lawyers anytime to arrange a free first consultation with an experienced, specialist traffic lawyer who will accurately advise you of your options, the best way forward, and fight for the optimal outcome in your specific situation.

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.
Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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