From Tuesday 28th June a new law, introduced as part of the Police, Crime and Sentencing Courts Bill, came into force to close a loophole that allows drivers who cause permanent disability or injury through careless driving to avoid prison, substantial fines or bans.
The Bill creates a new offence of ‘causing serious injury by careless driving,’ and is part of the Government’s effort to improve driving standards and to punish those who don’t give their full attention to the road. This offence will carry a maximum penalty of two years in prison. In addition, drivers who commit death by dangerous driving or death by dangerous driving while under the influence of drink or drugs can now potentially face life imprisonment.
Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart, commented:
“IAM RoadSmart found 86% of people support the move to introduce life sentences for drivers who cause death by dangerous driving, however the problem is that people who are causing the most damage often don’t think about their actions or the consequences before they do it. To reduce offending, we need to focus on raising the fear of being caught. You just need to look at the mobile phone legislation where we've seen the fine increased to £200 and six penalty points, and yet many of us will see somebody holding a mobile phone behind the wheel every day because people just don’t believe they are going to get caught.
“If we saw an increase in the number of traffic police, better traffic policing coordination and intelligence between forces, it would help target the minority who cause the biggest problems. This does mean finding extra resource, which is an issue right now, but there would be a lot of additional benefits if we were to see more high-profile policing - including reduced crime, less speeding and faster response to incidents.
“As it currently stands not many people who are found guilty currently get given the full sentence they can be offered for this crime. There are already sentencing guidelines in place, however if the previous maximum sentence of 14 years is not currently used then what are the chances of a life sentence being used?
“Road safety isn’t a Home Office priority, compared to crimes such as terrorism and human trafficking, however IAM RoadSmart want to see that changed. During the pandemic there were more people caught speeding, particularly excessive speeding, yet overall, the last two years have seen less deaths and injuries on the roads. This is due to less traffic and fewer people travelling due to COVID-19 lockdowns, but more people were caught speeding because they were spotted by the police who were out there looking for them.”
A 2020 report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services said that despite the high number of people killed in England and Wales each year, roads policing was seen as “less of a priority than it should be”, with police and crime plans often making little or no reference to it.