Nine out of 10 people questioned agreed that if someone causes a fatal crash after drinking or taking drugs, they should be charged with manslaughter, according to a new survey by road safety charity Brake.
At present people can either be charged with causing death by dangerous driving or causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs.Sentences for those charges range between 26 weeks and 14 years, though sentences at the higher end of the range are rarely handed out.
The study also reveals most people back much tougher sentences for all criminal killer drivers. Two thirds of people (66%) questioned think those convicted should be jailed for at least 10 years. About half of people asked said the sentence for killing someone in a crash should be at least 15 years and one in five (19.8%) think drivers who kill should be jailed for life. At present almost half of drivers convicted of killing are not jailed at all. The average prison sentence for a driver who has killed someone is less than four years.
Brake is now calling on the government to immediately review guidelines for both charging and sentencing criminal drivers.
Gary Rae, director of communications and campaigns for Brake, said: “There are too many families who suffer the double trauma of losing a loved one in a sudden and violent way, and then witness the judicial system turning its back on them. That’s why we’re launching our Roads to Justice campaign, which calls on government to get tough on criminal drivers who kill or seriously injure others. We believe the public are behind us, judging from our survey results. People we work with tell us they are left feeling betrayed by the use of inappropriately-termed charges and lenient sentences. Drivers who kill while taking illegal risks are too often labelled ‘careless’ in the eyes of the law, and then given insultingly low sentences when their actions can only be described as dangerous and destructive.”
Brake’s survey also revealed overwhelming support for a charge of dangerous driving and not careless driving to be handed out when someone is seriously injured or killed in a crash. 84% of people questioned agreed a charge of dangerous driving should be brought.
In 2014 176 people were charged with “causing death by dangerous driving” and 205 were charged with “causing death by careless driving”