If you have had the misfortune to be involved in a road traffic accident and are being investigated or potentially prosecuted for dangerous driving or a lesser offence the consequences legally are manifest.

Most dangerous driving prosecutions, in my experience, arise out of simple or explainable driver error, inadvertance, road conditons or other factors. Obviously, there are clear cases such as the consumption of alcohol or prescription medication or illict drugs and in particular, excessive speed.

Up until relatively recently, Irish Judges had a discretion on a first conviction, not to disqualify (ban) a driver. This discretion was exercised frequently in the justice of a situation, if the driver required his licence for work to earn a living or other compelling reason. If a driver is convicted today of an offence of dangerous driving he or she is banned automatically for a period of 2 years and the sentencing Judge has no discretion. While I accept and agree that our reduced road death figures over the last number of years are very welcome I would question the change in the law. While many accidents are aggravated by circumstances such as no insurance most drivers are insured and the victims of an accident have their remedy. A Judge can actually ban a driver for any road traffic offence and cases that require a ban are in my experience dealt with in that fashion. My point is that in the justice of a case on sentence, a ban can cause immense hardship on drivers especially if they have been of previous good character.

I think this situation will at a Court level just lead to more cases being fought in Court. Unless , the evidence is compelling or overwhelming my advice to client now who need their cars is to plead not guilty.Our policy makers are rightly diligent in the promotion of good road safety standards but as usual have failed to take account what happens at the cold face of life.

Thankfully the Courts jurisdiction to reduce a dangerous driving to a careless driving remains open but for how long?

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