The new offence of ‘causing serious injury by dangerous driving’ will carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and allow the courts to impose tougher punishments on dangerous drivers who devastate the lives of others.
The changes will be taken forward as part of the Government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.
For the vast majority of other dangerous driving cases, the maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment provides the courts with sufficient and proportionate powers to punish offenders.
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said:
‘Dangerous driving can destroy lives and have a devastating effect on victims and their families and friends.
‘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.’
Ellen Booth, Brake senior campaigns officer said:
‘Brake wholeheartedly welcomes this new offence which will help to provide justice to families whose lives have been ripped apart by dangerous drivers.
‘As a charity that supports bereaved and seriously injured victims of road crashes, we repeatedly see victims’ families being grossly let down by the justice system, which only adds to the terrible trauma they must endure.
‘This new offence finally means that serious injury is recognised within the title of the offence, and this recognition is vitally important to victims and their families. It also means that dangerous drivers who inflict serious injuries can expect to see higher sentences to better reflect the terrible trauma and injuries they have caused.’
Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said:
‘The vast majority of motorists are safe and responsible but the wilfully reckless minority who put lives in danger must face serious penalties.
‘We are taking action to help the police tackle drink and drug driving, as well as to crack down on uninsured and dangerous drivers, and this new offence will mean the courts can properly punish those who inflict serious injuries.
‘These measures - together with improved educational courses for drivers who need to improve their skills - will help ensure Britain’s roads remain among the safest in the world.’
Andrew Howard, Head of Road Safety at the AA said:
‘Dangerous drivers who do so wilfully choose to take risks and should face the consequences of their actions.
‘These law changes should make sentences more proportionate to the devastation dangerous driving causes and should also deter people from driving badly.’
Notes to editors
- If a person causes death by dangerous driving the maximum sentence is 14 years.
- 1,850 road deaths occurred in 2010. The Department for Transport published its Strategic Framework for Road Safety earlier this year, setting out the Government’s plans to improve road safety education and enforcement.