UK moves to life in jail for careless driving

Life sentences for crashes causing death, 3 years for serious injury

Published: December 3, 2016, 4:30 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 3:21 PM

Car Crash - Side Impact

The British government is moving towards sentencing drivers who carelessly take human lives to life sentences.

In a move to deter dangerous driving, the government is proposing life sentences for drivers causing death through dangerous driving, including drinking and driving, drugged driving, speeding, street racing or while using a mobile phone. A conviction would, of course, be eligible for reduced sentences but would carry mandatory driving bans.

“Killer drivers ruin lives. Their actions cause immeasurable pain to families, who must endure tragic, unnecessary losses,” said Justice Minister Sam Gyimah. “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.”

In 2015, 122 people were sentenced with causing death through dangerous driving, with another 21 convicted of being under the influence while causing death through dangerous driving.

The current sentence is 14 years, maximum, unless the charge is upgraded to manslaughter, and convicted drivers served, on average, 45.8 months.

Under the proposed changes, those who cause serious injury while driving dangerously would face a 3-year mandatory term, under a new offence.

The proposed changes will go into consultations until Feb. 1, 2017, seeking public input on whether to keep the current penalties or adopt the new sentencing guidelines.

The proposal met with approval from road safety charity Brake, which has long lobbied for stiffer sentences for dangerous driving causing death, on behalf of the victims’ families.

The move has been welcomed by road safety charity, Brake, which has long campaigned for justice for families who have lost loved ones because of criminal drivers.

“We do remain concerned that the charge of ‘careless’ driving could remain. 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,” said Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake. “We also want clarification on whether the current automatic 50% discount, where convicted drivers serve only half their term in jail, will still apply for these new, proposed sentences. At this stage, these are proposals, and we will be giving our full response before the February deadline. We would urge others, especially those directly affected by road deaths, to respond to the consultation.”

Canada already has a life sentence applied to convictions of drunk driving causing death, but not for other dangerous driving offences, which carry 10-14 years’ mandatory prison sentences depending on whether injury or death is involved.