Road safety charity Brake has welcomed a proposal to jail killer drivers for life, which is included in a consultation document from the Ministry of Justice.
The charity has long campaigned for justice for families who have lost loved ones because of criminal drivers.
Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, said: “This is a vindication of our efforts, and those of victims’ families, calling for change through our Roads to Justice campaign. For too long, the justice system has treated them as second-class citizens.
"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.
"We also want clarification on whether the current automatic 50% discount, where convicted drivers serve only half their tem 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.”
The Goverment has proposed that dangerous drivers causing death by speeding, street racing or while on a mobile phone are among those now facing the same sentences as those charged with manslaughter.
Offenders who cause death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs could also be handed life sentences - an increase on the current 14-year upper limit.
Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said: “Killer drivers ruin lives. Their actions cause immeasurable pain to families, who must endure tragic, unnecessary losses.
“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.”
A consultation seeks views on whether the current maximum penalties available to the courts should be increased. Proposals include:
- Increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life.
- Increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life.
- Creating a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, with a maximum sentence of three years.
- Increasing minimum driving bans for those convicted of causing death.
- Today’s announcement delivers on the government’s pledge to consider the sentencing powers available to the courts for the most serious driving offences.
In 2015, 122 people were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving, with a further 21 convicted of causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence.
It is hoped the measures will see custodial sentences for causing death by careless or dangerous driving increase – from an average of 45.8 months in 2015.