Alcohol and drugs a factor in a third of dangerous driving deaths

Media release

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

A third of all Queenslanders sentenced for dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death were affected by drugs or alcohol, new research from the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council has revealed.

The Sentencing Spotlight on dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death examines sentencing outcomes in Queensland courts between 1 July 2005 and 30 June 2017.

It reveals that over the 12-year period there were:

  • 363 offenders with an average age of 32
  • 8% were 17 and under
  • 82% of offenders were men

The average prison sentence was 5.2 years, but ranged from 1.5 to nine years, with the presence of aggravating factors – factors which make an offender more culpable - tending to result in higher sentences.

Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death without aggravating factors carries a maximum penalty of 10 years jail.

But the maximum penalty rises to 14 years prison if there are any one of four aggravating factors:  alcohol, excessively speeding, leaving the scene, or drag racing.

Analysis of those aggravating factors over the 12-year period found 33.5% of offenders (with the charge as their Most Serious Offence) were affected by drugs and/or alcohol, 6.1% were excessively speeding at the time of the accident, and 3.0% left the scene of the crime.

Council chair John Robertson said QSAC’s Spotlight series was proving to be an important myth buster.

“I think perhaps in some quarters there is a mistaken belief that offences of this type are committed by either very young or very old drivers,” he said.

“As we’ve discovered, based on the sort of thorough data analysis that QSAC does best, that is not the case.

“It’s also particularly interesting to look at the criminal history of offenders – more than half had no previous criminal convictions.

“And over the 12 year data period, there were no repeat offenders for this specific offence.

“All-in-all, it’s an unusual offence; unlike other crimes there is no direct link to socio-economic disadvantage.  It’s not a crime you can pin to a particular postcode or group of people.

“It is very often relatable – you can see how it might happen – it is always tragic, and the presence, or not, of aggravating factors such as alcohol or speed makes a huge difference to the level of culpability, or degree of guilt.

“We hope this independent report adds to the conversation about justice and how sentencing operates in Queensland,” Mr Robertson said.

View the Sentencing Spotlight on dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death

Search our database of recent Spotlights

You can also Judge for Yourself an actual case that went before Queensland courts.

Media contact:   Kirsten MacGregor 0459 887 077