Drivers who kill as a result of dangerous or careless driving will now face life imprisonment after ministers agreed on plans for a shake-up of British road laws.
Several road safety groups have welcomed the proposed changes to sentencing guidelines, which many campaigners have felt are long overdue.
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Causing death by dangerous driving or careless driving will carry a life sentence in England, Wales and Scotland if the guilty party was over the drink-drive limit or under the influence of drugs.
Deaths caused by drivers using a mobile phone, racing or speeding will also carry a prison term in line with that for manslaughter, raised from a maximum of 14 years to a life sentence.
A new category of offence has also been introduced of causing serious injury through careless driving.
The review included a public consultation in December 2016, which received 9,000 responses. The full consultation is due to be published on Monday (October 16).
Justice minister Dominic Raab said: “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”.
The legislation regarding changes in the offences and sentencing must be passed by parliament.
In a statement announcing the changes, the Ministry of Justice said that the review was “part of government action to make roads safer for all and stop devastation caused by dangerous drivers and cyclists”.
No new offences have been introduced relating to causing death or injury by cycling. The Ministry of Justice says that the Department for Transport is “separately reviewing cycling safety and seeking views on whether a new offence of causing death by dangerous cycling is needed, further details are due shortly.”
The government called for a review into causing death by cycling after the widely-publicised Charlie Alliston case. Alliston was jailed for 18 months after being found guilty of causing the death of pedestrian Kim Briggs in London in February 2016. He was riding a fixed gear bike with no front brake, illegal in the UK.
Recently released government figures show that there were 1792 reported road deaths in 2016, a four per cent increase on 2015. A total of 24,101 were serious injured. Included in those figures are 102 fatalities and 3397 serious injuries among cyclists.
Road safety charity Brake said that the announcement of rules changes was a ‘major victory’ for the victims of road crime.
“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,” said Brake’s director of campaigns Jason Wakeford.
“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.”