Time to toughen up on motorists
21 November, 2017
Ministers have recently confirmed that maximum sentences are to be increased for those who cause death on the roads. These changes will apply to death by dangerous driving, for which the penalty will increase from 14 years to life. Likewise there will be an increase from 14 years to life for the offence of death by careless driving under the influence of drink or drugs.
A new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving will also be introduced, meaning drivers who cause death by speeding, racing or using a mobile phone could receive a life sentence.
Surprisingly, since the current maximum penalty was increased from four to 14 years in 2004, not a single person has been handed the maximum sentence. Yet there isn’t a week that goes by without news coverage of horrific deaths caused by driver negligence. Surely those who take a life deserve to have this reflected in their sentence?
The changes follow a petition by the Drive for Justice Campaign, who successfully submitted their coverage to the government consultation into driving offences and penalties relating to causing death or serious injury.
The government received 9,000 responses to their consultation, which included information from road safety experts, victims and bereaved families. It sought views on whether the current maximum sentences available to the courts should be increased.
Justice Minister Dominic Raab said: “Based on the seriousness of the worst cases, the anguish of the victims’ families and maximum penalties for other serious offences such as manslaughter, we intend to introduce life sentences of imprisonment [for those who cause death or serious injury on the road]”.
It can only be hoped that an increase in sentencing will encourage judges to give out harsher sentences for serious cases, as it appears that many are still willing to break the law under current sentencing guidelines. A recent survey by First4Lawyers found that not only do 70% of drivers admit to speeding, 61% admitted that they still use their mobile behind the wheel despite a change in penalties, and a further third of those surveyed confessed to drink-driving.
Andrew Cullwick, spokesperson for First4Lawyers says: “We recently discussed the need for new cycling laws, and we hope these are now more likely to be introduced in addition to this increase in sentences for driving offences. We support the need to send a clear message that causing death on the road, whether by bike or car, should be punishable by a lengthy jail term. We’re glad to see the government are starting the processes to make sure that this is the case.”