Government ministers are laying out plans to increase prison sentences for drivers who end up killing as a result of careless driving. The law currently imposes a maximum prison sentence of 14 years on offenders, however under new proposals, this could be extended to life imprisonment.
By increasing the length of prison sentences, deaths caused by dangerous driving would be treated the same as manslaughter. The move is intended to crack down on speeding and intentional street racing, as well as those driving under the influence of drink or drugs and drivers using a mobile phone, in an effort to keep road fatalities down.
Despite tougher penalties being brought in to combat the number of drivers using mobile phones at the wheel, the new proposals would mean harsher punishment for those flouting the law. Since last December, motorists have faced fines of up to £150 and 3 points on their licence, which can be doubled to 6 points for lorry drivers.
The Transport Secretary at the time, Patrick McLoughlin, spoke of the increased measures, stating: “Using a mobile phone at the wheel is reckless and costs lives – I want to see it become a social taboo like not wearing a seatbelt.” However, the number of drivers using their phones at the wheel is increasing, according to RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams.
The Ministry of Justice is seeking consultation on whether maximum penalties should be increased to emphasise the seriousness of careless driving and the life-threatening consequences. While the maximum sentence that courts can give for causing death by dangerous driving is currently limited to 14 years, the average offender serves as little as 4 years.
Justice minister Sam Gyimah said, “Killer drivers ruin lives. Their actions cause immeasurable pain to families, who must endure tragic, unnecessary losses. While impossible to compensate for the death of a loved one, we are determined to make sure the punishment fits the crime.”