Fleet News

Four in five support tougher penalties for killer drivers

Brake and bereaved families are calling for tougher charges and penalties for drivers who kill and injure, to provide justice for victim families and deter risky driving.

The road safety charity and Direct Line have released a report today, which suggests overwhelming public support for stiffer penalties to be introduced.

Four out of five (82%) respondents think sentences should be higher for drivers who kill, while a similar number (81%) think if you kill or seriously injure someone when taking any kind of illegal risk at the wheel, you should be considered ‘dangerous' not ‘careless' in the eyes of the law.

It also reveals that 85% of respondents think drivers who kill while they were drink or drug driving should get five years or more in prison, with 66% thinking the same sentence should apply to speeding and 64% for drivers who were using their phone.

And, 95% of respondents say penalties should be tougher for killer drivers who flee the scene.

Latest Government figures show only six in ten people (62%) convicted of killing someone through risky driving are jailed, and only 9% are sentenced to five years or more in prison.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: "We want the government to acknowledge how inadequate current charges and penalties are and take action to prevent traumatised families suffering further insult.

“Denying justice to victim families often has a terrible impact on their ability to rebuild and move forward with their lives.

“Brake bears witness to the consequences for these vulnerable families every day through its support services for bereaved and injured crash victims.

“Our justice system should make clear that risky, illegal behaviour on roads is no accident: it's selfish, destructive, and unacceptable.

“Our report shows huge public support for this campaign, and in Parliament MPs are mobilising for action across the political parties.

“We're calling for the government to listen to the bereaved families courageously speaking up on this issue, and seize the opportunity to fix this long-running issue."

Full survey results

If a driver kills or severely injures someone when speeding, do you think they should be charged with causing a death or serious injury by 'careless' or 'dangerous' driving?

• 23% said ‘careless'
• 77% said ‘dangerous'

If a driver kills or severely injures someone when using a mobile phone, do you think they should be charged with causing a death or serious injury by 'careless' or 'dangerous' driving?

• 28% said ‘careless'
• 72% said ‘dangerous'

If a driver kills or severely injures someone when taking any kind of illegal risk on the road, do you think they should be charged with causing a death or serious injury by 'careless' or 'dangerous' driving?

• 18% said ‘careless'
• 81% said ‘dangerous'

If a drink or drug driver hits someone and kills them, then leaves the scene of a crash to give themselves time to sober up, the maximum they can be charged with is a 'hit and run' which carries a maximum six months in jail.

If they had called an ambulance and waited with the victim, they could be charged with causing death while impaired, which carries a maximum 14 years in jail.

Should the government change the law so hit and run drivers who kill face higher penalties?

• 5% No - the law shouldn't assume drivers are guilty if they run
• 25% Yes - sentences should be higher for drivers who try to evade the law, but not as high as 14 years
• 70% Yes - hit and run drivers who kill someone should face up to 14 years in prison, so drivers don't have an incentive to leave the scene if they've been drinking or taking drugs.

Currently penalties for driving when disqualified do not take into account whether the driver has been caught driving when disqualified before.

Do you think penalties should be higher if a driver has been repeatedly caught driving when disqualified?

• 96% Yes
• 4% No

While the maximum sentence for killing someone by dangerous driving is 14 years and killing someone by careless driving is five years, four in ten drivers convicted of killing someone through their risky driving are not given jail sentences, and only 9% are given sentences of five years or more.

Do you think sentences should be higher for drivers who kill?

• 82% yes
• 18% no

If you had to decide how the legal system should punish a driver talking on a mobile phone whose bad driving had killed someone, what penalty would you give them?

• 4% No jail term - just a fine
• 6% 6 months in jail
• 10% 6 months to 2 years in jail
• 17% 2 to 5 years in jail
• 24% 5 to 10 years in jail
• 24% 10 to 15 years in jail
• 16% More than 15 years in jail

If you had to decide how the legal system should punish a driver whose speeding had killed someone, what penalty would you give them?

• 2% No jail term - just a fine
• 4% 6 months in jail
• 10% 6 months to 2 years in jail
• 17% 2 to 5 years in jail
• 23% 5 to 10 years in jail
• 27% 10 to 15 years in jail
• 16% More than 15 years in jail

If you had to decide how the legal system should punish a driver whose drink or drug driving had killed someone, what penalty would you give them?

• 1% No jail term - just a fine
• 2% 6 months in jail
• 4% 6 months to 2 years in jail
• 8% 2 to 5 years in jail
• 17% 5 to 10 years in jail
• 33% 10 to 15 years in jail
• 35% More than 15 years in jail

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Comments

  • Alan Woodison - 21/03/2014 13:25

    Prevention is the best approach - perhaps stiffer penalties will make people think more. As a fleet manager, I assess many drivers in the course of my work and I am stunned at the level of poor drivers out there. Brake looks to adjust the attitudes of drivers and make them more aware of the consequences of bad driving, however, they need more pressence and more money to acheive their goals. Those people who have lost loved ones in road traffic incidents will never recover from the experience and their lives are changed for ever, unfortunately I speak from bitter experience.

  • Merganser47 - 21/03/2014 18:20

    Longer prison terms will do little to rehabilitate a bad driver. Probably will do more to alienate them from society. If punishment and retribution is the goal then go for more prison time. If behavior modification and rehabilitation is the goal, revoke all driving privileges, require community service on weekends, perhaps at hospital emergency care where they are more likely to see the results of other distracted drivers. Prison is a waste of taxpayer money.

  • Mister Genius - 25/03/2014 15:42

    Disagree. The penalty should in no way be linked to the actual outcome of the event (nothing, physical damage to property, physical injury, death) since the actual outcome was not under the control of the accused. The nature of the transgression and the expected risks to others is what should drive the severity of the penalty. A person who chooses to drive when not qualified puts others at risk when they do so. A person who exceeds the speed limit by 50 mph in a 30 mph zone is choosing to put others at risk and it does not matter if nobody was actually hurt by that choice. The choice was still the same one. Its nothing to do with him/her if nobody else happens to be actually impacted by their choices.

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