Road deaths: UK call for life sentences

  • 10 years for truck driver who killed family
  • UK survey shows public tired of bad driving
  • Time for courts to get tougher on cellphones?
CELLPHONE DEATH SENTENCE: There is support in the UK for the death sentence for causing death by dangerous driving - and that could start with using your cellphone at the wheel. Image: Newspress
CELLPHONE LIFE SENTENCE? There is support in the UK for life in jail for causing death by dangerous driving – and that could start with using your cellphone at the wheel. Image: Newspress

LONDON, England – A survey by the UK’s biggest road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart, has shown road users want British law to be far stricter on those whose driving causes death and serious injury.

You could, if one of the suggestions is taken into law, get a life sentence for causing a fatal crash while using your cellphone.

The survey of nearly 2000 road users* found nearly 80% agreed there should be a new offence of “causing serious injury by careless driving” and 56% agreed that the maximum penalty should be one to five years in prison; 44% went further and felt the maximum penalty should be more than five years.

TOUGHER PUNISHMENT FOR USING CELLPHONES? UK pubic make plain their hatred for people who do this. Image: Newspress
TOUGHER PUNISHMENT FOR USING CELLPHONES? UK pubic make plain their hatred for people who do this. Image: Newspress

Many respondents – almost half – also felt the current maximum penalty of 14 years for causing death by dangerous driving wasn’t nearly high enough.

LIFE FOR KILLER SPEEDERS?

However, when asked if the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving should be increased to life imprisonment, those taking our survey were more evenly divided with slightly over 51% ‘agreeing’ or ‘agreeing strongly’ but 49% unsure or against the government’s proposed new tougher sentencing proposals.

In December 2016 there was a government suggestion that drivers who killed could draw life in prison and that those who caused death while speeding, street racing or using a cellphone were among those now facing the same sentences as those charged with manslaughter.

Offenders who cause death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs could also be handed a life sentence – an increase on the current 14-year upper limit. A government consultation seeking views on this ran until February 1.

Most of those surveyed by RoadSmart also did not want to see the fundamental principles of early release for good behaviour or shorter sentences for pleading guilty waived in cases involving death or serious injury on the road.

MOTHER, 3 CHILDREN, KILLED

The results were much clearer on longer periods of disqualification where injury or death were involved – nearly 80% of respondents agreed or agreed strongly.

The UK government’s consultation on new penalties closed at the beginning of February 2017 and the issue was brought into even sharper focus with the jailing of truck driver Tomasz Kroker for 10 years in October 2016. He killed a mother and three children when he was distracted by changing music on his smartphone and crashed into stationary traffic.

READ MORE cellphone-associated features on Carman’s Corner

Sarah Sillars, RoadSmart’s chief executive officer, told The Corner in a media release: “Our survey shows there is public support for tougher sentencing – that many people feel the law simply doesn’t go far enough. Holding a driving licence should be considered a privilege, not a right .Those who fail dangerously to reach the highest standards should have that right taken away.

“It is very clear that many people in the UK believe the punishment often does not fit the crime and that the law should reflect that far more appropriately.

“We want to see the courts apply the current guidelines consistently. In practice, the current maximum of 14 years in prison for causing death by dangerous driving is rarely used; that is deeply upsetting for victims’ families. There is no guarantee a higher maximum would be used either.

“Until that happens we cannot be sure that tougher sentencing would make a marked difference to the way people act behind the wheel.”

*RoadSmart’s survey took into account the views of 1989 respondents, a mix of RoadSmart associates and members and non-members. They were all road-users and came from across the UK.

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