Regina v MacDonagh: CA 1974

The Road Traffic Acts do not define the word ‘drive’ and in its simplest meaning it refers to a person using the driver’s controls for the purpose of directing the movement of the vehicle. It matters not that the vehicle is not moving under its own power, or driven by the force of gravity, or even that it is being pushed by other well-wishers. The essence of driving is the use of the driver’s controls in order to direct the movement, however that movement is produced.
Lord Widgery CJ said: ‘The essence of driving is the use of the driver’s controls in order to direct the movement, however that movement is produced.’ and
‘There are an infinite number of ways in which a person may control the movement of a motor vehicle, apart from the orthodox one of sitting in the driving seat and using the engine for propulsion. He may be coasting down a hill with the gears in neutral and the engine switched off; he may be steering a vehicle which is being towed by another. As has already been pointed out, he may be sitting in the driving seat while others push, or half sitting in the driving seat but keeping one foot on the road in order to induce the car to move. Finally, as in the present case, he may be standing in the road and himself pushing the car with or without using the steering wheel to direct it. Although the word ‘drive’ must be given a wide meaning, the courts must be alert to see that the net is not thrown so widely that it includes activities which cannot be said to be driving a motor vehicle in any ordinary use of that word in the English language.’


Lord Widgery CJ


[1974] RTR 372, [1974] 1 QB 448


England and Wales


CitedAmes v MacLeod OHCS 1969
The accused, who was alleged to have been driving a motor car, had been walking beside it as it ran down a slight incline, and had steered it by placing his hand on the wheel. The car had run out of petrol.
Held: The question turned on whether . .

Cited by:

CitedDirector of Public Prosecutions v Alderton Admn 25-Nov-2003
The defendant had been found sat in his car. He had been spinning its wheels, but not moving. The prosecutor appealed against dismissal of a charge of attempting to drive whilst under the influence of alcohol.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The . .
CitedTraves, Regina (on the Application Of) v Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 30-Jun-2005
The defendant appealed conviction involving allegations that he was driving. He was sat at the wheel of a vehicle being towed by means of a rigid steel bar. He denied that he was driving, but had both steered and braked.
Held: The magistrates . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Road Traffic

Updated: 12 May 2022; Ref: scu.189933