Road safety charity Brake has welcomed the Government move to introduce life sentences for killer drivers.
The Ministry of Justice originally pledged to introduce the punishment in 2017 and it will form part of major sentencing reforms to be unveiled by the Lord Chancellor in a white paper this week.
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said the charity has long advocated for an overhaul of UK road law to deliver justice for victims and to help keep roads free from dangerous drivers.
He added: “Crash victims have waited three long years for this announcement. Road crime is real crime and it is high-time that the Government, and the law, recognised this.
“Years of Government inaction have added to the suffering of road victims who have not been delivered the justice they, and their loved ones, deserve.
“The Government must now implement these tougher sentences as first priority, delivering on their overdue promise to road crash victims, and then urgently initiate a review of the flawed legal framework for road justice.
“Driving is a privilege not a right and yet our flawed legal system continues to allow convicted dangerous drivers on the roads where they can endanger others.
“We all want safer roads but we will only achieve this if the law treats road crime with the seriousness it deserves.”
The measures around driving include plans to:
- increase the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life
- increase the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life
- create a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.
Paul Loughlin, senior associate solicitor at Stephensons, said:“The impact of dangerous and careless driving often has far reaching consequences, not only for those involved but also for their families and friends.
"Much of the criticism surrounding legislation in this area is that it doesn’t provide sufficient justice for those who are killed as a result of dangerous driving, or those seriously injured as a result.
"These proposals would transform the sentencing guidelines for this offence and go a long way to redress the balance for victims.
“On the flip side, we have often seen prosecutors taking a harder line in cases where there has been a serious injury and the driving standard would ordinarily be considered to be ‘careless’ rather than ‘dangerous’.
"The absence of the ability to charge with causing serious injury through careless driving has seen inconsistent charging decisions being made to plug a gap.
"There are clear examples of cases being ‘bumped up’ from a straight forward careless driving charge to the more serious charge of causing serious injury through dangerous driving with more emphasis being placed on the extent of the injury caused, irrespective of the fact that the standard of driving would ordinarily be considered to be ‘careless’.
"The introduction of this new offence should more suitably plug that gap and ensure more appropriate charges being laid for this type of offence.”
Department for Transport figures show 1,748 people were killed on the roads of Great Britain last year, a figure which has flatlined since 2012 when 1,754 people were killed.