…As Safety Groups Push For High Profile Policing and Consistent Sentencing
Latest British legislation could put drivers behind bars for life for causing death by speeding, street racing or while on a mobile phone.
As contained in a statement by the country’s Justice Ministry on Sunday, offenders who cause death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs will also face life sentences, and a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving will be created.
The Government launched a consultation on the issue last December, with thousands supporting tougher penalties for the most serious road offences.
The issue was brought into sharp focus with the jailing of Tomasz Kroker for 10 years in October 2016. Kroker killed a mother and three children when he was distracted by changing music on his smartphone and ploughed into a line of stationary traffic in his lorry.
IAM RoadSmart’s own survey in February this year (reference 1) found nearly 80% agreed there should be a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving – which is now part of the Government’s plans.
Many respondents in the IAM RoadSmart survey also felt the current maximum penalty of 14 years in jail for causing death by dangerous driving wasn’t nearly high enough; with almost 50% saying the penalty was not set at the right level.
The Government will now proceed with the measures, which will see life sentences introduced for those convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs.
Commenting on the news, Jason Wakeford, director of campaigns for Brake, the road safety charity, described the announcement as a major victory for the families of victims and charities, including Brake, who have tirelessly campaigned for punishments which better fit road crimes that kill and seriously injure people.
“We applaud the Government for at last recognizing that the statute books have been weighed against thousands of families who have had their lives torn apart through the actions of drivers who have flagrantly broken the law.
“In addition to tougher penalties, Government must also make road policing a national priority, reversing savage cuts to front line resources so that laws are properly enforced in the first place. Figures released only last month reveal that almost 1,800 people were killed on British roads last year – a four per cent rise since 2015. There is an urgent need for a road collision investigation branch, similar to those already in existence for air, rail and sea, so that lessons can be learned to prevent future deaths and serious injuries on the roads.”
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “The public has been calling for stricter penalties for those who cause death by driving recklessly, and the moves today by the Government are wholeheartedly welcomed.
“However we feel that visible policing, and a high likelihood of being caught, is the surest way of making people drive better. If people don’t think they will be caught, they simply won’t drive in a safer way.”
Neil added: “It is also vital that courts reflect society’s view on the impact of dangerous driving and use the maximum available sentences – something they have so far not demonstrated on a consistent basis. While a toughening of the law might make people feel better, on its own it is sadly unlikely to reduce the number of cases of really selfish driving which end in tragic results.”