Dangerous drivers to face jail

14 December 2006

Drivers who cause death on the roads could face jail or even life imprisonment under plans for tough new penalties from the Crown Prosecution Service.

The proposals, which apply to England and Wales, mean that drivers who kill are now more likely to face charges of manslaughter, instead of the lesser charge of death by dangerous driving. Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Currently, prosecutors can find it difficult to bring charges of death by dangerous driving. More usually, they opt for the lesser charges of careless driving or driving without due care and attention, which are easier to prove, but carry only a maximum fine of £2500.

Other examples of bad driving could also be moved up into the dangerous driving category. This would mean that a much broader range of bad driving would carry a prison sentence - this is because dangerous driving comes with a two-year maximum prison sentence, whereas careless driving can only be dealt with by a community order or a fine.

Examples of bad driving which could be recategorised in this way include:

• Using a hand-held mobile phone when driving
• Tailgating
• Tuning a car radio
• Overtaking on the inside ('undertaking')
• Driving past a red traffic light
• Applying make-up on the move
• Reading a map
• Lighting a cigarette
• Talking to or looking at a passenger
• Emerging from a side road into the path of another vehicle

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken McDonald QC, said that the consultation paper was in response to changing public attitudes to bad driving habits and dangerous driving. 'Public views have moved along in recent years and we want to make sure that our policies reflect public views,' he said.

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