Driving laws have received a drastic change recently in which those convicted of murder via dangerous driving can receive up to life in prison.
The new law is in response to criticism about those who cause death by driving and how they are seemingly given way too lenient sentences.
New laws, which comes straight from the Ministry of Justice, mean deaths caused by dangerous and reckless driving, or careless driving while intoxicated or under the influence, could mean top-level punishment if convicted.
Furthermore, prison terms in cases where mobile phones, speeding or street racing is involved, will be treated on the same level as manslaughter.
Road safety charity, Brake, have cited the passing of these new laws a ‘major victory’ for victims of loved ones who’s lives were taken away to vehicle related incidents.
Furthermore, a law which deals with serious injuries caused by careless driving is also being added.
These new driving laws will apply to England, Scotland and Wales but not Northern Ireland, who have separate road safety laws.
In statement regarding the changes, justice minister Dominic Raab said:
Based on the seriousness of the worst cases, the anguish of the victims’ families, and maximum penalties for other serious offences such as manslaughter, we intend to introduce life sentences of imprisonment for those who wreck lives by driving dangerously, drunk or high on drugs.
However speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live barrister Matthew Scott has remained sceptical to the changes, believing the new laws will not increase road safety.
Meg Williamson who lost her boyfriend, Gavin Roberts, believes a potential life sentence may be the deterrent which encourages safe and sensible driving.
In June 2016 Roberts died after his BMW was hit by a Vauxhall Corsa driven by Lewis Stratford on the A34 in Oxfordshire – according to the BBC Stratford was speeding and was arguing with his girlfriend over the phone when he collided with Roberts’ car.
He admitted to death by dangerous driving and was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison. Williamson told Radio 5 Live if the new laws had been in place earlier, Roberts may be alive.
Williamson went on to say:
It’s about re-educating people now. I think it might just take that one person to get the life imprisonment if some fatality occurs then people will start to realise this is something serious.
The changes to these laws follows a public consultation from December 2016 which got 9000 responses, with 70% of people backing to increase the maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving to at least 14 years in prison, if drugs or alcohol was involved.
Jason Wakeford, Brake’s director of campaigns also welcomed the new laws, telling Radio 5 Live:
We applaud the government for at last recognising the statute books have been weighed against thousands of families who have had their lives torn apart through the actions of drivers who have flagrantly broken the law.
However Mr Scott saw it as a ‘crowd pleasing gesture’ which ‘should be reserved for the most serious offences’.
According to the MoJ, 2016 saw 157 people convicted for causing death by dangerous driving, additionally 32 people were jailed for causing death by careless driving while under the influence.