Drivers who cause death by speeding, racing or using a mobile phone now face a life sentence
The Ministry of Justice has announced long-awaited plans to increase maximum sentences for drivers who cause death by speeding, racing or using a mobile phone.
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 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.
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.
Commenting on the announcement, Jason Wakeford, director of campaigns for Brake, the road safety charity, said: "Today's announcement is 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.
“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.”
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.
While many groups were quick to applaud the MOJ, there was equal concern that the governments actions on road safety don’t go far enough.
“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 4% rise since 2015.” continued Mr Wakeford.
“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."
Mr Greig was in agreement, stating: “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.”