Dangerous drivers who kill could get life in prison

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The plans unveiled by the Ministry of Justice would bring the offence of causing death by dangerous driving – including those speeding, street racing or while on a mobile phone – in line with manslaughter, meaning drivers could face a life sentence instead of the current maximum of 14 years.
 
Careless drivers who kill whilst under the influence of drink or drugs could also face life sentences.
 
And the proposals, which are under consultation until 1 February 2017, would also create a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, with a maximum sentence of three years, and would increase minimum driving bans for those convicted of causing death.
 
In 2015, average custodial sentences for causing death by careless or dangerous driving increase were less than four years.
 
Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said: “Killer drivers ruin lives. Their actions cause immeasurable pain to families, who must endure tragic, unnecessary losses.
 
“While impossible to compensate for the death of a loved one, we are determined to make sure the punishment fits the crime.
 
“My message is clear – if you drive dangerously and kill on our roads, you could face a life sentence.”
 
Road safety charity Brake welcome the moved but expressed concerns that the charge of ‘careless’ driving could remain.
 
Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, said: “Some of the strongest feedback we have received from the families we work with is that there is nothing careless about taking someone else’s life. We also want clarification on whether the current automatic 50% discount, where convicted drivers serve only half their tem in jail, will still apply for these new, proposed sentences.”

Penalties set to increase for mobile phone offences

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The government has confirmed its intention to increase the penalties for drivers caught using a hand-held mobile phone while driving.
 
However, the tougher law, which will be introduced early in 2017, has been accompanied by calls for companies to take greater responsibility in respect of employee use and more robust road traffic policing to catch offenders said to be at ‘epidemic’ levels.
 
Following analysis of responses to a consultation document published earlier this year, ministers have decided to:

•Raise the penalty points issued under a fixed penalty notice for the offence from three to six for all drivers
•Raise the fixed penalty notice fine from £100 to £200 for all motor vehicles.
 
Legislation implementing the change will now be laid before Parliament with the measures anticipated to be introduced in the first months of next year.
 
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart’s director of policy and research, said: “Addressing the growing problem of smartphone use whilst driving will require a combination of enforcement and education as well as drivers, passengers, companies and individuals taking more responsibility.”
 

Call for ban on hands free phone use

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A ban on the use of hands-free phones while driving has been called for and in the interim drivers have been urged to make a “personal commitment” to not use devices while on the move after four people from the same family were killed by a trucker.
 
The lorry driver, Tomasz Kroker, who killed a mother and three children when the vehicle ploughed into stationary traffic due to him being distracted by his phone, was jailed for 10 years. Reading Crown Court heard he had been so distracted he barely looked at the road for almost a kilometre. The judge described the case as the most horrific she had ever seen.
 
The court heard that an hour before the pile-up, he had signed a declaration to his employer, promising he would not use his phone at the wheel. 
 
Road safety charity Brake, which is supported by Jaama, has called for urgent changes to criminal driving laws in the wake of the court case. Brake is already calling for a full review of charging, sentencing and guidelines with its Roads to Justice Campaign and now wants to see hands-free calls banned and restrictions on the use of in-car-app enabling screens.
 
Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, said: “We need increased penalties for illegal phone use behind the wheel and hands-free calls must also be banned.”
 
Additionally, motoring organisation RAC said a “concerted, sustained effort was needed from government, police and motorists” to end what it called was the “phone use epidemic”.