Fatal and Serious Injury Accidents

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This section clarifies issues and policy regarding actions taken against driving privileges based on accidents that cause fatal and serious injuries. This includes the degree of negligence and the range of sanctions that DMV may apply as a result. DMV may take action against a negligent operator when the driver is involved in an accident that causes a fatal or serious injury, even though the driver may not have accumulated negligent operator points previously.


  • California Vehicle Code (CVC) §13800 (a) authorizes DMV to investigate fatal and serious injury accidents to determine if the driving privilege should be revoked, suspended, restricted, or placed on probation.
  • According to CVC §§12809 , 12813 , 13359 , 13953 and 14250, DMV may take action when the driver is a negligent operator because of a fatal or serious injury accident.
  • CVC §13802 requires DMV to give due consideration to the amount of use and mileage traveled in the operation of a motor vehicle when applying the provisions of CVC §13800.


Action may be warranted when the driver has been less than grossly negligent, including cases involving misjudgment and inattention. Drivers are negligent if they fail to use the degree of care expected to avoid accidents. Drivers should avoid accidents by driving defensively, considering traffic, road and weather conditions, being familiar with the road, understanding the type and conditions of their vehicles, knowing their level of driving skill, and maintaining control of their vehicles.

  • Accidents and convictions on the driving record.
  • Attitude of the driver.
  • Likelihood of recurrence.
  • Probable deterrent effect of a sanction.
  • Amount of use and mileage traveled in the operation of a vehicle.

The hearing officer must evaluate whether revocation, suspension, restriction, probation, or no action is appropriate based on the degree of negligence and related factors indicating future traffic safety risk.

DMV might revoke a driver’s license when there is evidence of severe, flagrant, aggravated and reckless driving acts in which the driver disregarded foreseeable consequences. A high degree of negligence is an increased risk to traffic safety and generally warrants having your driver license revoked, even after considering mitigating factors.

Some examples of driving acts which may warrant revocation include:

  • High speeds on crowded roads during peak traffic hours.
  • Attempting to evade law enforcement.
  • Driving under the influence combined with reckless driving acts leading to the accident.
  • Flagrant disregard involving foreseeable risk of traffic laws, signals or signs, weather or road conditions, known mechanical defects, or pedestrians.
  • Racing.
  • Driving recklessly in a vehicle for which they are not licensed or trained to drive.

DMV will consider suspension with or without probation when a driver fails to exercise a reasonable amount of care to avoid an accident. Some examples which may warrant a suspension include:

  • Committing a traffic violation which causes or contributes to the accident.
  • Attempting to pass on a winding road instead of slowing or waiting for safe area (this could warrant revocation depending on degree of disregard for traffic safety).
  • Attempting to accelerate through a yellow light and hitting a pedestrian in the crosswalk (this would warrant revocation if the driver saw the pedestrian before accelerating).
  • Misjudging speed of oncoming vehicle while making a left turn and has left turn violations on the driving record.

DMV might place licensing restrictions on a driver license to serve as an appropriate traffic safety deterrent, when there is negligence warranting action, but the likelihood of the same violation happening again is low. When the driver causes or contributes to an accident because of skill level or physical ability (for example, at night or on the freeway), appropriate restrictions will be considered based on the likelihood of recurrence.

DMV will consider probation as a minimal action and deterrent when action is warranted but there is a low degree of negligence, and related factors indicate a pattern or tendency toward negligent operation or future risk.

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