A car can be dangerous in the wrong hands and the Courts take a strict view on drivers who use it in such a manner. On Queensland roads 42 people have died as of 1 March 2016 and in 2014 alone there were 139 fatalities caused by drivers who were speeding, drinking or fatigued.
A person who drives in a manner that is dangerous to the public can be charged with dangerous driving and will face a maximum fine of $23,560 or 3 years in prison. The lesser offence of careless driving carries a fine of $4,712 or 6 months in prison.
Where there are aggravating features to the charge of dangerous driving a fine of up to $47,120 or 5 years in prison can be imposed by the court if at the time of offence the driver is intoxicated, excessively speeding, taking part in a race or unlawful speed trial or has been previously convicted of the offence. If the person has been convicted twice before for the offence or was intoxicated previously the Court must impose imprisonment as part of the punishment.
Where a person drives dangerously causing grievous bodily harm or death to another person they will face a maximum of 10 years in prison or 14 years in prison if any of the aggravating features are involved. There is a further element of aggravation where death or GBH is involved and the driver flees the scene of the incident other than to obtain help before the police arrive.
Take the 2013 case of R v Henderson; Ex parte Attorney-General (Qld)  QCA 063 before the Queensland Court of Appeal, where the driver used the car as a weapon killing three people and causing grievous bodily harm to another. The Court of Appeal increased the drivers sentence to 10 years in prison because at the time of the offence the driver had a suspended licence was already on bail for a violence offence and fled the scene after the accident. The sentence imposed automatically included the person be declared a serious violent offender.
To be found guilty of dangerous driving a jury will need to determine from an objective perspective if the driving in all the circumstances was dangerous, the question being was the manner of driving a real danger to the public, it does not matter if there was intention involved or if the driver was negligent. The courts have determined ‘public’ includes passengers carried in the vehicle. Evidence about the way a person had been driving prior to an accident has been held to be admissible in a trial of such a charge.