Campaigners and insurers have welcomed new government plans to introduce stiffer sentences for dangerous drivers.
Ministers are proposing a new crime of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, which will carry a maximum jail term of five years as well as potentially unlimited fines.
It is designed to fill the gap between the two current offences that negligent drivers can be charged with: dangerous driving, which has a maximum two-year sentence, and causing death by dangerous driving, for which offenders can be jailed for up to 14 years.
The proposed new crime will be an amendment to the current Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, and it will apply in England and Wales.
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said: “We have listened to the victims of dangerous drivers, their families, MPs, judges and road-safety groups and their experiences have directly informed these changes.
“Making our roads safer is a priority: five people died on our roads each day last year, so we need to do everything we can to further improve safety.”
Why the new law is necessary
Campaigners have long complained that the majority of driver-negligence cases are prosecuted for the lesser offence of dangerous driving, including instances when victims have been suffered devastating injuries.
The road-safety charity Brake said: “Currently, there is no charge that specifically recognises the causing of serious injury while driving, so drivers who inflict seriously injure through reckless and irresponsible behaviour may only be charged with dangerous driving, which carries a maximum of two years in jail, or careless driving, which carries a maximum penalty of a fine and disqualification.”
‘Increase the penalty’
Brake added that it wanted the five-year maximum sentence for the new offence eventually to be increased to 14 years in line with death by dangerous driving.
Spokeswoman Ellen Booth said: “Brake welcomes this new offence, which will help provide justice to families whose lives have been ripped apart by dangerous drivers. As a charity that supports bereaved and seriously injured road crash victims, we hear first-hand about the pain and suffering they experience, and repeatedly see these families being grossly let down by the justice system, which only adds to their trauma.
“This finally means that serious injury is recognised in the name of an offence, and this is vitally important to victims and their families. It also means dangerous drivers who inflict serious injury can expect to see higher sentences that are more in line with the devastation they have caused, which in some cases includes permanently debilitating injuries that leave people with round-the-clock care needs.”
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