Drivers convicted of causing death by dangerous driving or careless driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs, will face life in prison under tough new laws.
Government ministers have increased the maximum penalty for these offences, meaning the potential prison time is anything from 14 years to life.
Mackrell& Thomas Solicitors, road traffic accident solicitors, believes that this good news.
“There needs to be strong action against drivers who are under the influence. They need to made an example of to reduce the number of accidents.”
As part of the reform, a new offence – causing serious injury by careless driving – has been created, with the maximum sentence yet to be decided.
Justice minister Dominic Raabsaid: “We’ve taken a long hard look at driving sentences, and we received 9,000 submissions to our consultation.
“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 wreck lives by driving dangerously, drunk or high on drugs.
“We will introduce a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, punishable by imprisonment, to fill a gap in the law and reflect the seriousness of some of the injuries suffered by victims in this category of case.”
In 2016, 157 people were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving, with a further 32 convicted of causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence.
Sentencing guidelines put the maximum sentence for causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving at five years.
Meanwhile causing death by driving whilst unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured carries just two years.
Three years or more imprisonment was recommended as the maximum penalty for the Government’s new driving offence, which an overwhelming 90 per cent of people agreed with introducing.
Road safety charities and campaigners have also welcomed the news.
Jason Wakeford, director of campaigns for Brake, the road safety charity, said: “We applaud the Government for at last recognising 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, the Government must also make road policing a national priority, reversing savage cuts to front line resources so laws are properly enforced in the first place.
“Figures released only last month reveal 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 lessons can be learned to prevent future deaths and serious injuries on the roads.”
For grieving families, who continue to hit out against death drivers escaping the harshest sentences, the shake-up goes some way to showing compassion towards them.
In March this year the penalties for using a phone whilst driving were doubled to six penalty points and a £200 fixed penalty notice.
A provocative THINK! campaign was also launched to warn drivers of the new penalties and the dangers of driving whilst using a mobile phone or device such as an iPad.