Lawyers and charity campaigners representing road crash victims have called on the Ministry of Justice to fast track the introduction of new offences aimed at clamping down on dangerous driving.
Earlier this week the MoJ published the findings of a national review of driving offences and penalties that result in death and serious injuries – to which over 9,000 responses were submitted by a range of organisations and individuals including police and crime commissioners, legal professionals, road safety groups, motor industry employees and members of the public.
As a result of overwhelming public support for more severe penalties, plans are now being put in place to increase the maximum penalty for causing death or serious injury by dangerous driving whilst under the influence of drugs and alcohol from 14 years to life imprisonment – and create a new offence of causing a serious injury by careless driving.
However, legal experts and campaigners believe lawmakers must do more to ensure fewer lives are lost in road traffic accidents.
Commenting on the reforms Scott Whyte, managing director at Watermans, said: “Having worked with both the victims of careless and dangerous driving and families who have lost a relative as a result of dangerous or careless driving it is clear the present penalties do not go far enough.
“We are supportive of the Government’s plans to consider increasing sentences and driving bans for those who kill or seriously injure someone as a result of dangerous or careless driving.
“We are also encouraged by the decision to introduce the offence of causing serious injury. While the matter is to be debated when there is Parliamentary time to do so – we would urge the government to prioritise it.
“We hope that increased penalties in respect of both bans and sentences, particularly the introduction of life sentences, will act as a greater deterrent against people taking unnecessary risks on the road.”
Amy Aeron-Thomas, Advocacy & Justice Manager from the national charity for road crash victims RoadPeace, added: “RoadPeace welcomes the steps the Ministry of Justice is taking to improve the justice system’s response and ensure drivers are held responsible for the harm and culpability involved. While only a few drivers a year may face a lifetime prison sentence, these extreme offenders deserve no less.
“This announcement may not represent the leap RoadPeace and our members wanted, but it is still a step in the right direction.
“However, wider reform will come from the new charge of causing serious injury by careless driving, a rethink on the key sanction of driving bans, and greater clarification of careless and dangerous driving.”