Defendants in most traffic offences are caught while driving vehicles. But what exactly is “driving”? What constitutes “driving” may look plain and obvious. However, there are in fact many Court cases where defendants facing driving offences have tried to argue that they were not driving at the material time. Consider the following scenarios:
- Pushing and steering a vehicle?
- Pushing without steering a vehicle?
- Leaving a vehicle, with its engine running?
- Sitting at the driver’s seat of a vehicle, with its engine off?
- Releasing the handbrake of a vehicle and let it go downhill?
- Sitting in the driver’s seat of a vehicle while it was being towed?
- Controlling a vehicle that was stuck in a traffic jam and motionless at the time?
Are the above acts “driving”? There is no statutory definition of the word “driving”; and there is no fixed rule governing what constitutes the act of “driving”. Each of the above scenarios will have to be considered in the light of its factual circumstances before one can decide whether or not there is “driving”.
Generally speaking, the basic principles of what constitutes “driving” are: driving involves the driver having control over the movement of a vehicle, and driving happens when the driver deliberately sets the vehicle in motion.
The following examples may serve to highlight the Court’s attitude towards what constitutes “driving”.
- Pushing a vehicle with occasional adjustment of the steering wheel was not driving.
- Pushing and steering a motorcycle was driving.
- Temporarily leaving a vehicle with its engine running amounts to driving because driving is a continuous act.
- A person in the driving seat of a vehicle, with its engine off but still warm, had driven the vehicle. A conviction of driving while disqualified was therefore justified.
- A person sitting in the driver seat of a stationary vehicle, with its engine running, was not driving, though he accidentally stepped on the accelerator and made the vehicle move forward.
- Releasing the handbrake of a vehicle and letting it go downhill amounts to driving.
- Sitting at the driver’s seat of a vehicle while it was being towed amounts to driving.
- A driver controlling a stationary vehicle in a traffic jam was driving.
(However, it should be noted that the Court decides each case on its unique factual circumstances. The above examples should not be treated as general principles.)