Judith Cummins MP was awarded Brake’s Parliamentarian of the Year award for 2017.
When I first became an MP I saw a statistic that shocked me. My constituency of Bradford South has one of the highest rates of children being killed or seriously injured on our roads anywhere in the country. Our child casualty rate is 52% higher than the national average. Progress towards safer roads is also slow - 30% slower in fact, than the rest of the country.
The numbers of people killed and injured on Bradford South’s road has risen every year since 2011 bar one.
Behind these statistics are the tragic stories of families whose lives have been turned upside down forever. The needless deaths and preventable injuries occurring in my home city are replicated on the streets of Britain every single day. More than 1,700 people were killed on Britain’s roads in the year ending September 2017.
My local paper, the Bradford Telegraph and Argus, regularly highlights cases of danger driving in the city. From court cases and tragic deaths to near misses that could have been so much worse, the stories are never far from their pages. In 2015, the year I was elected, the paper launched its Stop the Danger Drivers campaign, and I was proud to sign up.
Reducing the number of serious traffic incidents, and ultimately saving lives, will require many different approaches. But a critical part of this is ensuring our laws and criminal justice system have the power to act as an effective deterrent to the bad drivers who blight our roads - and to truly deliver justice to the families who have their lives ripped apart by dangerous driving.
On 15th October 2017, road safety campaigners across the country rejoiced as the Government announced long overdue plans to increase maximum sentences for drivers who kill and injure on our roads. The Government announced it would introduce life sentences for those who cause death by dangerous driving, and for careless drivers who kill while under the influence of drink or drugs. They also announced the creation of a new offence of causing serious injury through careless driving.
The plans were warmly welcomed by road safety campaigners, myself included.
After years of unduly lenient sentences for drivers who kill and injure, we thought true justice had finally arrived for the many families who had lost a loved one through the actions of a dangerous driver. No longer would families have to watch as killer drivers were handed pitifully lenient sentences.
Fast forward eight months, however, and nothing has changed. The new sentences are still no closer to implementation than they were last year. Dangerous drivers are still often receiving lenient sentences. Families are still being betrayed by the justice system.
Despite repeated questioning in the House of Commons, the Government has consistently failed to put any sort of timeframe on these vital changes being implemented, with the Justice Minister, in response to my latest question, vaguely commenting that the Government ‘will bring forward proposals for changes in the law as soon as parliamentary time allow’. Quite frankly, this delay is not good enough. There is absolutely no reason for it and in the meantime families of road crash victims are seeing justice denied to them because judges cannot hand down tougher sentences for killing someone while behind the wheel.
The Government took steps in the right direction by announcing tougher sentences for drivers who kill and injure. However, by delaying their implementation, it is causing further unnecessary suffering to families who have lost loved ones in road crashes. The Government must act now and implement these tougher sentences to act as a true deterrent to dangerous driving on our roads and provide families with the justice they deserve.
Judith Cummins MP, Brake Parliamentarian of the Year 2017