New guidelines for emergency driving standards
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has issued new guidance on the prosecution of driving offences committed by emergency responders and members of the public driving in response to emergencies. Cases are now to be considered on key facts and individual merits, including what the driver knows about the nature of the emergency; the amount of blame attributable to the driver (and the nature of the driving), and the question: is the driver a continuing danger to others?
The Courts have stated that the special skill (or lack of skill) of a driver is irrelevant when considering whether driving is dangerous. The test to be applied is the objective test of the competent and careful driver as set out in statute. The Courts have also clarified that police officers are not entitled to drive dangerously when on duty or responding to an emergency.
According to the CPS, police officers, ambulance staff and fire-fighters may need to drive a vehicle in response to an emergency in a manner which would otherwise be considered unacceptable.
“Our starting point is that it is very unlikely to be appropriate to proceed with a prosecution on public interest grounds if a police officer, member of ambulance staff or fire-fighter commits a driving offence while responding to an emergency call,” states the CPS website.
However, every individual case must be considered on its own facts and merits, and when considering whether it is in the public interest to proceed with the case, prosecutors should have regard to the following factors:
- The nature of the emergency known to or reasonably perceived by the driver. For example, whether the driver was responding to a 999 call in compliance with the agreed operating practice in that service;
- The level of culpability of the driver (including the nature of the driving); and
- Whether there is evidence the driver may be a continuing danger to others. For example, such evidence may include relevant convictions or internal disciplinary proceedings against the driver.