Drivers who kill others by focusing on their mobile phones rather than the road could face life in prison. In a move designed to make the roads a safer place the government is changing the law. Its aim is to ‘clamp down on dangerous, criminal behaviour on our roads’.
The government has also acted to plug a gap in the law. It has introduced a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving. This will be punishable by up to three years prison. Here we look into what the changes mean for drivers.
Why has the law changed?
There have long been complaints that drivers have effectively been committing manslaughter through driving dangerously, then getting away with short sentences befitting less serious crimes. The government is keen to send out a message that this is wrong. In addition, it wants to reverse a trend that has seen road deaths increase. In 2016 these were up 4 per cent compared to the previous year.
When the government held a consultation about this, it received more than 1000 replies in just three days. There were 9000 opinions in total. Now, if a driver kills someone through driving while speeding, racing, being drunk or on a mobile phone, they could be sentenced to life imprisonment. Previously, the toughest sentence for these and causing death by drink driving was 14 years.
Who will it affect?
In 2016, 157 people were convicted of causing death by dangerous driving. A further 32 were sentenced for causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs. But the real purpose of the heavier sentences is to make more people think twice before driving dangerously. The reasoning is this will increase protection for law abiding road users.
Director of campaigns for road safety charity Brake, Jason Wakeford, 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.”
What about the new charge?
There are already charges of causing death by dangerous driving, causing death by careless driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving. The new charge of causing serious injury through careless driving closes a loophole in the law. Before, anyone causing serious injury through careless rather than dangerous driving could get away with a careless driving fine. Now they could receive up to three years in prison.
What’s the difference between dangerous and careless driving?
Dangerous driving is the more serious offence. Both offences are for driving that falls below the standard expected of a competent driver. The law for careless driving states: “A person is to be regarded as driving without due care and attention if (and only if) the way that he drives falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.” Dangerous driving is when the standard of driving falls far below that of a competent driver.
How does that work in practice?
Dangerous driving is if you are on your phone, speeding excessively or racing another driver. Equally, the Crown Prosecution Service says the offence includes sudden lane changes, aggressive tailgating, driving when you know you haven’t had enough sleep, disregarding the safety of vulnerable road users and deliberately ignoring traffic lights.
Careless driving (otherwise known as driving without due care and attention) is when you might go through a red light inadvertently, be distracted by using a hand-held phone, by tuning the radio, lighting a cigarette or eating. However, if any of these causes a massive deterioration in the standard of your driving, they could prompt a dangerous driving charge.
17 comments on “New laws make penalties for dangerous driving much tougher”
And about time too! Perhaps ( but I have my doubts ) this will deter some of the stupidity which passes for ‘clever driving’ on the roads. Also, as a cyclist as well as a car driver, it has always seemed rediculious to allow vehicles to travel at speeds of up to 60 mph on small country lanes. A driver killing or injuring a pedestrian or cyclist on bend below this speed is driving within legal limits. On some of the lanes in my area 40 mph would be dangerous!
Is the goverment going to address the laws regarding the proper use, careless or dangerous use of bicycles and motor bikes on UK roads etc
Motorbikes are covered by the same laws as cars.
Thanks, very enlightening.
Good. Anything to improve the standard of driving on British roads is to be applauded.
I am pleased that changes are taking place to the quality of driving, it appears that young girls are a danger through driving too close to the vehicle in front. They do not understand the braking distance of a vehicle and the reaction time to avoid a shunt.
That is called tailgating something that is dangerous and frightening if your the driver in front. Not just young girls but any driver who wants to bully other road users to get out of their way. No one who tailgates thinks about stopping distances or what they are doing to the other driver they just dont care
About time. I’m sick of drivers flouting the law and putting other in danger.
Interesting to see the inclusion of “Eating” in the careless driving category. When I reported a Police driver to his sergeant for drinking whilst driving through a busy village,Iwas told this is perfectly acceptable since it is only illegal to use a mobile ‘phone! I gave up in despair!
Any plans to change the law that it is an offence to use a phone while driving, even if you have it on Sat-nav function and on a hands free cradle. You are using it purely as a sat-nav but technically you are using a phone.
Do you want drivers to be penalized for looking at the speedometer or perhaps listening to the radio as well
I was shunted off the road by a driver, he was driving so fast he ploughed into the back of my car then continued onto the nearby slip road where he abandoned his car. How we survived I don’t know. Several said they are amazed we got out.
He was charged with careless driving but very much doubt he will get a van as he is pleading extreme hardship.
How can people get away with injuring others. My car was a total write off.
Sick of seeing idiots on mobiles while driving it’s about time .I would also like to see tougher penaltys for drivers without insurance.
I applaud, like we all probably do, stiffer penalties for maniac drivers. Its down to the courts to impose stiffer penalties if they have the added tool in their box. I am convinced that sentencing will be the same old same old.
Its all well and good having new maximum sentences bit will the magistrates and judges use them? I doubt it as they never used the previous maximum’s, so unless they are told to increase the punishment they hand out it is all a publicity seeking waste of time.
What’s the difference between dangerous and careless driving??
Well, in addition to the explanation given on this site, the two offences are exactly the same in one respect which is that, by the use of the word HE when referring to the driver it would appear that both offences can only be commited by the MALE SEX!!!!!!!
However, If i may be excused for being pedantic, I am all in favour of the highest penalties being imposed for such offences.
We will have to wait and see if these lmproved penalties are actually used to their maximum !