The sentence for death by careless driving has changed. ​​Judges can now hand out life sentences for reckless drivers. The law that came into place on the 28th of June 2022 will introduce more severe sentences for driving that puts the lives of others in danger.

Sentence requirements

Drivers responsible for killing a driver or pedestrian while under the influence of alcohol or drugs will now face a potential life sentence. A life sentence will even be given for causing any life-altering injuries. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 will replace the previous penalty limit, in which the longest sentence could only be 14 years. Effectively the charge is now equivalent to that of manslaughter.

The law was first proposed back in 2017, where it received overwhelming support from victims of careless driving. 

The ruling will be imposed on England, Scotland and Wales.

The Road Traffic Act 1988

The Road Traffic Act of 1988 is where an individual’s driving was careless and as a result, killed someone, the driver could be prosecuted for causing death with their driving. 

The limitations of this Act made it impossible to provide a significant punishment for those who permanently affect the life of their victim. For those who were left with permanent disabilities, they could only prosecute for their careless driving. In these cases, without an exceptionally high amount of evidence, the driver would only receive a fine and possibly be disqualified.   

Why is there a law change now?

Previously the maximum sentence for careless driving was 14 years. However, many who caused life-altering injuries or death would get away with heavily reduced sentences. With lengthier sentencing, the hope is to further deter anyone planning to drive intoxicated or carelessly. Drivers who are on their phones will also receive harsher penalties.

The previous rulings were based on the Road Traffic Act 1988. This is now an outdated law with how popular mobile phones are. In fact, a RAC report showed that 29% of UK drivers openly admit to making or receiving calls on their mobile phones while driving. Despite the current laws banning drivers from holding their phones while driving, it appears many are ignoring this law leading to collisions. 

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, commented on the new law change. “Those who behave with disregard to the risk they pose deserve the stiffest penalties when their actions rob others of their lives.”

Support from the government

Both Theresa May and Dominic Raab, the key figures associated with introducing the new Bill, have spoken publicly on why this law is so necessary. In 2021, a disgruntled Theresa May asked “will the Government now give Government time to my Bill to ensure that this necessary change is put on the statute book as soon as possible?” 

Raab was featured on iNews back in 2017 believing the law must be used “to ensure our roads are safe for all of us who use them – and that we have the right punishments and deterrents at the disposal of our courts to achieve that.” Just under 5 years later, Raab, May and many others have finally got the outcome they’ve been looking for.

Want more news surrounding the current changes occurring to the highway code? Check out our up-to-date news coverage here.