Over the past month, the UK has seen a big change in the road safety laws. This week it was announced that the maximum sentences for drivers who cause death by speeding, racing or using a mobile phone was now increased from 14 years to life. This increase was also extended to those who cause death by careless driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
This change follows a public consultation from December 2016 which sought views on whether the current maximum penalties available to the courts should be increased. This consultation generated over 9,000 submissions.
Justice Minister Dominic Raab said that this change was “based on the seriousness of the worst cases, the anguish of the victims’ families, and [the] maximum penalties for other serious offences such as manslaughter”.
This increase will apply across the whole of Britain, excluding Northern Ireland.
Dominic Raab also introduced a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving. He said that this was to “fill a gap in the law” and was to “reflect the seriousness of some of the injuries suffered by victims in this category of case”.
The Department for Transport is also separately reviewing the cycle safety laws and is seeking views as to whether a new offence of causing death by dangerous cycling is needed. This follows the widely-publicized Charlie Alliston case.
Alliston, a cyclist, was convicted on 23 August 2017 over the death of Kim Briggs who died after he collided into her on his fixed wheel bicycle. The bicycle did not have any front brakes, contravening the Pedal Cycles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1983.
Alliston was cleared of manslaughter but was found guilty of “wanton and furious driving”, a crime under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, and will be serving a sentence of 18 months.
This landmark case sparked the debate as to whether the offence of death by careless and dangerous driving should be introduced for cyclists.
The Transport Minister Mr Jesse Norman said: “We have strict laws that ensure that drivers who put people’s lives at risk are punished so it is only right for us to look at whether dangerous cyclists should face the same consequences.”
The government hopes to reach a decision on the matter early next year.
These actions are all a positive step forward in the journey that aims to improve the safety for all road users and to stop the devastation caused by dangerous drivers and cyclists.
Blog by Charlotte McTavish