Articles Tagged ‘dangerous driving - Brake the road safety charity’

A personal account by Nova Storey

On 9th November 2004 our 18 year old son, Dominic, died following a car crash in which he was a back seat passenger. The driver of the car was subsequently convicted of causing Dominic's death by dangerous driving and was sentenced to two and a half years in a young offenders' institution.

The car crash took place at 21:50 on 8th November 2004. Dom had gone out with a friend who he had not seen for seven years and who he had met by chance the previous week. I was away from home, in Merseyside, as my dad had died three weeks previously and my mum and I had gone back to their house to sort out her affairs. At twenty minutes past midnight the telephone rang. I can't explain this now but I immediately knew something terrible had happened. It was my husband ringing to tell me that Dominic was in hospital in Coventry and that the sister in charge there had advised that I get to the hospital as soon as possible. Police officers from the local force were there with my husband and escorted the ambulance that transferred Dom to the Intensive Care Unit at another hospital. All we knew at this stage was that Dominic had been in a car crash and was seriously injured.

The police force, in my parent's hometown, sent a police driver to take me to the hospital, whilst another police officer went to my brother's house to arrange for him to come and stay with my mum. At the time I was just reacting like a robot and accepted that this was all happening. The officer who drove me down to Coventry talked throughout the whole journey and I remember thinking at one stage, 'Just shut up and let me think about what is happening.' I now realise that this kept me calm and carried me through those few hours. When we got to the junction before our exit junction on the M6 we had to come off the motorway, as a Father's for Justice campaigner was threatening to throw himself off the motorway bridge. I wonder if he will ever know how close he came to stopping me getting to the hospital before Dom died?

We finally arrived at about 04:30 just as Dom arrived in the ambulance from the first hospital. I couldn't imagine what had taken them so long but he was so severely injured that they had had to be very careful with him and he had struggled to keep breathing. How can I ever adequately thank the police officers who got me to the hospital? Without their support I know I would not have been with Dom to hold his hand and tell him how much I loved him and how proud I was of him. It enabled me to be with him when he died. I truly believe that he hung on for me, that he knew that I was there and, in my darkest moments, this gives me much consolation.

We were taken to the relatives' room on the ICU and I could hear this erratic beeping and lots of activity. I knew it was Dom. I remember going to the ladies room and, looking in the mirror, realised that I had been crying constantly since I'd arrived. We had several medical personnel come in to talk to us. A neurosurgeon explained that he wanted to put a pin or something into Dom's brain as it had twisted on the stem, another surgeon talked about his lungs, people were in and out but it seemed like we were waiting forever. Eventually the Head of the ICU came in and sat down beside us. I asked him what Dom's long term future held and he just said, 'Mrs Storey, we are fighting to stop Dominic from dying rather than fighting to keep him alive.' He had a strange look on his face that I thought was annoyance at my stupidity. In fact it was sheer frustration that despite all their efforts they couldn't save Dom.

At 05:30 we were able to sit with Dom and, for me, this was the first time I had seen him since the crash. He looked beautiful and so young, because his face was swollen and it gave him that chubby look that toddlers have.

Whilst we were with Dominic, police officers had collected my twelve year old daughter and our friends, who were looking after her, and were bringing her to the hospital. Dom started to fail again and the decision was made to remove the artificial aids that were keeping him alive. He died at 06:30 before our daughter arrived. I will never, as long as I live, forget the look on her face when I told her Dom had died.

In amongst all of this I remember being really aware that I was facing the greatest challenge of my life - to carry on knowing Dom had died.

We arrived home at 10:30 and began the awful process of letting our families know what had happened. It still makes me cry remembering my oldest brother breaking down on the phone when he heard my voice. Our friends stayed with us until late afternoon and my husband fell sleep on the sofa through sheer exhaustion. My broken heart nearly gave up completely when I came into the room to find my lovely, young daughter covering him up with a blanket like she was his mother.

The only information we had at this time was that Dom had been thrown out of the car and was, eventually, found in a field. Throughout that first night this absolutely haunted me. Was he conscious and frightened? Was he crying for us? Was he in pain with no one to help him? I worried that his spirit wouldn't be able to find us so my husband suggested lighting a candle like sailors' families used to do when they were at sea. We did this and, three years later, we have lit a candle every night for him at home.

The next day the Senior Investigating Officer from Traffic came to see us. He clarified all the factual details, went through the further work that they would be carrying out and explained that we had been assigned a Family Liaison Officer. He gave us the Brake Bereavement Guide which was invaluable to me. I don't have a clear memory of the visit, as shock was the only thing keeping us standing. However, we learnt that Tom, the driver of the car, had lost control of the car whilst overtaking another car just before a blind bend, had hit a tree stump, and overturned, at which point Dominic was thrown out of the car. We also found out that Dom had in fact landed on the road, a local resident was with him within minutes, an off-duty police officer had administered first aid and was also with him until the paramedics arrived and that he had been unconscious throughout. It may sound strange but the sense of peace this gave me was huge as I now knew that Dom wasn't alone and afraid and in pain. To know that someone was with him, talking to him and looking after him, cradling his head and holding his hand was of the utmost comfort to me.

We visited the scene of the crash that evening and were greeted by flowers and poems, letters, candles and cards. The following days were filled with a combination of shock, absolute sorrow and love. The outpouring of grief and support from everyone who knew Dom was staggering. Perhaps the saddest thing of all about his death is that, apart from the odd bad day, Dominic loved and enjoyed life so very much. He was cheerful, always smiling and he took enjoyment from the simplest of things. Dom had obviously captured the hearts of so many and touched the lives of more people than we had ever imagined. His funeral and the cards and letters we received at that time, and subsequently, bear testament to this. Flowers and letters were sent from shops and businesses in our town, from his old secondary school along with many letters from teachers and pupils alike, from his old primary schools, one of which he left aged 7. All reinforced the message that despite his devilment he was a lovely boy who would never be forgotten.

We were appointed a Family Liaison Officer who helped us enormously during that first two weeks. She listened to us, was honest and compassionate in her dealings with us and quietly directed us to do and think about things that we would not have been able to cope with or considered ourselves. As a result we visited the crash scene and she walked us through events and explained everything that she could, we planted daffodil bulbs at the point alongside where Dom was found, and she liaised with and gave us the contact details of the off-duty policeman and the local resident who were with Dom at the scene.

Another significant area that the FLO supported us in was in relation to the media. I would have spoken to every newspaper and journalist I could have but I am so glad that I was advised to wait and let the police interact with them. Given the little information we had at the time about the cause of the crash I would have given a view that I would have later regretted as I just had not considered the fact that the driver was to blame.

After the first few weeks contact with the FLO and the police became less as the driver was recovering from his injuries and was not fit for interview. However, we were steadily introduced to the fact that the driver was the cause of the crash and thereby responsible for killing Dominic. By the time it was determined that he would be charged and a prosecution would take place we were resigned that a court case would take place.

During this time we struggled to find our way in a world that seemed so alien without Dominic in it, and we were constantly having to re-evaluate how to take our place as individuals and how to be a family unit without him. We were a solid, devoted and happy family and there was absolute love between us. Dom was a vital quarter within our whole and we couldn't fill that gap or compensate for his loss. His 19th birthday on 11th December and that first Christmas were particularly harrowing and we still find family occasions really hard without him.

Dom was a delightful and sociable character who very rarely chose to spend time in his room, preferring instead to be in our company when he was at home, and who was never happier than when having a lively discussion or exchanging repartee with family and friends. He loved people whatever their age, background or beliefs and he accepted everyone on face value, never forming a judgement until he had had the chance to get to know them. This wasn't always a good quality because it sometimes led to disappointment for Dom, but it was one of the traits that made him the sensitive and caring individual that he was. He didn't have a bad bone in his body. He was naive in the ways of the world, although he thought he knew it all, but he had grown into a unique and charismatic young man who was ready to make his way in the world.

Dom was especially happy at the time of his death as he had finally found his focus. He was about to embark on a career in the Royal Navy as a marine engineering mechanic and it was a pleasure to share his sense of excitement and nervous anticipation at the road that lay ahead. We were impressed at the dedication and motivation Dom showed whilst following the selection programme and we grieve deeply for the life that would have been his, for the experiences he will miss, mistakes, regrets and failures included. Dom didn't deserve to have his life taken from him, having fought against severe illness as a baby until aged 10 when he suddenly grew stronger and more robust. Highly skilled surgeons and medical staff fought very hard to save his life in those early years and it seems such a terrible waste that he was not able to take full advantage of the gift that he was given. He was affected by this earlier condition throughout his life but we never heard him complain and we don't believe he even thought himself disadvantaged. Certainly he didn't expect any special treatment and he embraced life with open arms.

In the February following his death I was standing in my local newsagents when the front page of the local newspaper caught my eye. With disbelief I read an article detailing the driver's first appearance in court having been charged with causing Dominic's death by dangerous driving. I was just devastated that the FLO hadn't informed us. As far as I am concerned we were standing for Dominic as he couldn't do so for himself and I felt completely let down and distressed that we had not been given the opportunity to attend the first court appearance.

At about this time also we asked to see the car. We were offered video footage and photographs but there was a real reluctance from the police for us to see the actual car. For some reason this became something of an issue but we persevered and eventually our request was granted. Our FLO and the Inspector supported us during our visit to the garage and I can't express enough the benefit we gained from this. It enabled us to understand how Dom was thrown from the car and clarified many of the facts we had been told. I also began to appreciate just how badly the driver had been driving.

We then entered into the court process and attended four court sessions over six months culminating in the sentence in the July. I can only say that we were completely looked after and supported throughout this process by the FLO and the team. We chose to make our own way to court but they were always there waiting for us, helping us to understand what was happening, forming a secure barrier between us and the outside world, and facilitating our way through, what was for me, an intensely traumatic experience. I cannot imagine what it would have been like without their support.

I found it particularly upsetting when the driver initially pleaded 'Not Guilty' - to me it was a complete betrayal of my son and seemed to demonstrate a lack of remorse and denial of any responsibility. The fact that I had always believed that he cared for Dom and was shattered by what had happened had made it easier for me to carry on. I was also terrified that we would have to go to trial as I really didn't think I would survive it. The police gave me strength and forbearance at a time when I was in no state to deal with any additional stress and, sure enough, the plea was subsequently changed to guilty.

The driver was sentenced in July 2005 and there followed a very difficult period. It seemed like everyone had returned to their normal, everyday lives, whilst we were struggling with complete and overwhelming sorrow. Perhaps the most difficult aspect to bear was the intensity with which we missed him every second of every minute of every day. We wondered how we could live the rest of our lives without him, how we could get through so many days and years with him gone from us. We mourned for him as he was when he was a baby, a toddler and at every stage of his short life. It was as if those earlier stages of his life had been taken from us also and whilst we cherished the memories of him and the experiences we shared with him, we were, and are, broken hearted that we will never see him again in this world. We miss buying Baby Bel cheese and having to pick the pieces up from around the house, him eating all the bacon crisps, him filling the house with the smell of Lynx deodorant, him calling "Shall I put the Smelly on?" for the television, him peering anxiously through the front room window at an ungodly hour because he'd forgotten his keys, him laughing unreservedly at some silly remark, him giving the thumbs up when we went to pick him up from work. We still miss everything about him and him just being there.

Three years on and we are much stronger and more able to cope. At a time when we were crippled by shock and brought to our knees by grief, we were supported by some very special individuals. They would probably say they were just doing their jobs. To us it was much more than that and those individuals will always have a place in our hearts.

Our hearts are still filled with sorrow at the premature and needless death of a lovely, thoughtful, fun-loving rogue who cared deeply about his family and friends. Our lives and the world we live in will never be the same. Dominic had his life snatched from him. He will never again sit in the sun having a drink with his friends, never experience regret and joy, never realise his career ambitions, never experience the happiness of finding his soul mate, never look down into the face of his new-born child and marvel at the wonder of it all. He can never spend another second with a family who love him so much that they would give everything they had just to have him back for one day.

We are exceptionally proud of Dominic and we love him so very, very much. We are thankful that we had the privilege of having him as our son for he was a truly special boy. The day that he died our world became a darker place and the sun will never shine as brightly for us again."

Author: Nova Storey
Edited by: Mary Williams

Date Written: January 2008

Bradford South MP wins national road safety award

News from Brake
Tuesday, 14 November 2017
news@brake.org.uk

Bradford South MP wins national road safety award

Judith Cummins, MP for Bradford South, has today been awarded a parliamentarian road safety award by charity Brake and Direct Line.

The award recognises Judith’s dedication to road safety, both within her constituency and nationally. Since her election in 2015, she has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the weaknesses in criminal justice for drivers convicted of killing and seriously injuring by careless and dangerous driving.

Judith, along with other campaigners including Brake, helped secure an increase in sentencing for those found guilty of the most serious road crimes from the Ministry of Justice last month - a landmark victory for the families of road crash victims.

Locally, Judith Cummins has raised the profile of the Telegraph and Argus’ long-running ‘danger drivers’ campaign within her home town of Bradford and in Parliament, including speaking in numerous debates and helping tackle the issue of dangerous driving across the city.

Next week, Judith is holding an event to promote the importance of safe and considerate driving on Bradford’s roads, as part this year's Road Safety Week. 

Jason Wakeford, director of campaigns for Brake, the road safety charity, said:"Judith is a worthy winner of this parliamentarian road safety award. Her tireless campaigning to help tackle dangerous driving on the roads of Bradford is to be applauded. Judith has also worked alongside Brake and others to make the Government recognise that the statute books have been weighed against families who have had their lives torn apart through the actions of drivers who have broken the law. The recent decision by the Ministry of Justice to increase sentences for the most dangerous drivers is a major victory in the fight for improved road safety." 

Accepting her award, Judith Cummins MP said: “I am delighted to have received Brake’s Road Safety Award off the back of my long-standing campaign to improve safety on the roads of my home city of Bradford. Dangerous and careless driving has been a blight on the communities of Bradford for far too long. The recent Government announcement that tougher punishments will be introduced for driving offenders was very welcome news. This change in the law is testament to what can be achieved when we all speak with one voice – I wish to thank everyone who made their voice heard by responding to the public consultation.

“Brake, as a national campaigning charity, has been tirelessly campaigning for improved road safety for many, many decades. Its greatly admired work supporting bereaved families is especially worthy of our praise. I very much look forward to continuing to work alongside Brake to campaign for better standards, stronger laws and tougher enforcement on the roads of Bradford and the whole of the UK.”

[ENDS] 

Notes to editors: 

About Brake

Brake is a national road safety charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.  

About Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or online.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by UK Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England No 1179980. UK Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc. Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0845 246 3761 or visiting www.directline.com.

Brake comments on Spurs' Captain, Hugo Lloris, guilty plea to drink driving charge

News from Brake
Wednesday 12 September
 
Tottenham Hotspur Goalkeeper and Captain, Hugo Lloris, has today pleaded guilty to drink driving after being stopped by Police in West London last month.
 
The case comes only weeks after figures published by the Department for Transport showed that the number of people killed or seriously injured in drink drive crashes in 2016 is at the highest level since 2012.
 
Commenting, Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said:
 
“It is disappointing to see that someone who is a role model to many thousands of football fans has admitted breaking the law by drink driving. We expect the captain of Tottenham Hotspur and his national team to be setting a good example, not flouting the law in such a manner. This kind of dangerous behaviour is selfish, illegal and puts lives at risk.”
 
“Drink driving is an increasing menace on our roads. The current limit gives a false impression that it is safe to drink and drive – it is not. It is high time that the Government takes decisive action before any more lives are needlessly lost and implements an effective zero tolerance drink-drive limit of 20mg per 100ml of blood, making clear to drivers that not a drop of alcohol is safe.”
 
 
[ENDS]
 
 
Notes to editors:
About Brake
 
Brake is a national road safety and sustainable transport charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies.
We do this through national campaignscommunity educationservices for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.
Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.
 
Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

Brake responds to sentencing of Adam Elliott for dangerous driving

News from Brake

16 June 2017

 

Judge Robert Adams, sitting at Newcastle Crown Court, today handed Adam Elliott, 26, a nine-month jail term, suspended for 18 months, a £100 fine and £1,500 prosecution costs, for dangerous driving.

 

Adam Elliott had previously admitted charges of dangerous driving, failing to stop, driving while disqualified and driving without insurance at a previous hearing.

 

He will also be disqualified from driving for two years and has been ordered to carry out 150 hours of rehabilitation activity.

 

Commenting on the sentencing, Jason Wakeford, from road safety charity Brake, said: "This driver has shown total disregard for the safety of others on the road and the law. It's nothing short of a miracle that no one was killed by his reckless actions.

 

"On average, five people die on our roads each day. We believe that sentences for those who endanger, injure or kill should be much tougher, serving as a better warning  to those who flagrantly flout the law. There also needs to be more investment in road traffic policing, so the police have the resources needed to take more dangerous drivers off our roads."

Brake urges full review of road safety laws as cycling offence consultation is launched

News from Brake
Sunday, 12 August 2018
 
The Department for Transport has announced the launch of a consultation which will look at whether a new offence equivalent to causing death by careless or dangerous driving should be introduced for dangerous cyclists.
 
Commenting on the announcement, Joshua Harris, Director of Campaigns at road safety charity Brake, said:
“Whilst the intentions behind the Government’s announcement are sound, they are trying to fix a fundamentally flawed legal framework. A full review of road safety law is required and frankly long overdue. All too often families are denied justice, with drivers who kill let off with pitifully lenient sentences, and the public endangered through dangerous drivers evading driving bans. The Government must review all road safety law to protect the public and deliver justice for the families of those devastated by road death.”
 
The Department for Transport has also announced that it will look at updating parts of the Highway Code, including measures to counter the dangerous practice of ‘close passing’ and that it has commissioned the Cycle Proofing Working Group to develop national guidance and best practice for cycling and walking infrastructure, so that all road users can benefit from the best facilities.
 
Commenting on the announcement, Joshua Harris, Director of Campaigns at road safety charity Brake, said:
“Cycling is one of the healthiest, cheapest and most environmentally-friendly forms of transport available and yet cyclists’ vulnerability put many off getting on a bike. We welcome the move by the Government to address the danger of “close passing” but encourage them to go further to improve cycle safety. This year’s Road Safety Week theme is ‘Bike Smart’ and from 19-25 November we will be encouraging everyone to shout about the safety of those on two wheels – we hope the Government listens and acts to improve cyclist safety”
 
 [ENDS]
 
Notes to editors
  • Road Safety Week is the UK's biggest road safety event, coordinated annually by Brake, the road safety charity.
Road Safety Week aims to inspire thousands of schools, organisations and communities to take action on road safety and promote life-saving messages during the Week and beyond. It also provides a focal point for professionals working in road safety to boost awareness and engagement in their work. Road Safety Week website
 
About Brake
Brake is a national road safety and sustainable transport charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies.
 
We do this through national campaignscommunity educationservices for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.
Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.
 
Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

Charges and penalties

 

Key facts

 
  • The maximum sentence for causing death by careless driving is only five years, compared to 14 for causing death by dangerous driving;
  • In 2015, 188 drivers were charged with ‘causing death by dangerous driving’, while 201 were charged with ‘causing death by careless driving' [1];
  • About three in five people convicted of killing someone while driving are jailed,[2] with an average prison sentence of under four years [3];
  • In 2014, 1.02 million fixed penalty notices (FPNs) were issued for driving offences in England and Wales; three-quarters of the FPNs were for speed-limit offences, the highest proportion on record [4];
  • FPNs for careless driving (excluding handheld mobile phone use) increased by 11% between 2013 and 2014 [5]; 
  • In 2013, 240 fatal road crashes, and 1,100 crashes resulting in a serious injury, involved a drink-drive offence [6];
  • Nine in 10 people want criminal drivers who kill charged with manslaughter[7];
  • Brake is advocating a review of charges for causing death and serious injury on the road, to ensure drivers are charged with offences that adequately reflect the risk taken and harm caused.

Introduction

 
Drivers who kill, harm and endanger are often let off with grossly inadequate penalties, in some cases for inappropriately-termed charges.

In cases of death and serious injury on our roads, this often causes terrible insult and upset to bereaved and injured victims, leaving many feeling betrayed by our justice system.

What's more, low penalties for driving offences at all levels sends a message that these are minor infringements, rather than serious crimes that result in needless suffering and loss of life.

Brake is now calling on the government to immediately review guidelines for both charging and sentencing criminal drivers as part of its ‘Roads to Justice' campaign.

Current penalties and charges

A combination of inadequacies in the criminal justice system means many drivers who kill or seriously injure receive very low sentences and often no jail term at all. Government figures show only three in five people convicted of killing someone through risky driving are jailed, with an average sentence length of under four years.

The Ministry of Justice decides the offences drivers can be charged with and their maximum penalties. The Crown Prosecution Service then decides which charge to prosecute a driver for in court, often opting for a less serious charge because they are more likely to get a conviction. Judges then determine the length of sentence if the driver is convicted, working within maximum penalties and using guidelines from the Sentencing Council.

Brake believes major improvements are needed to charges, penalties and sentencing to ensure justice is done and there's a strong deterrent against illegal driving.

Read about:

'Careless' driving

When a driver causes a death, they might be prosecuted with 'causing death by dangerous driving' or 'causing death by careless driving'. When a driver causes a serious injury, they might be prosecuted with 'causing serious injury by dangerous driving' (a charge introduced in 2012) or simply 'careless driving'. 

The difference between 'careless' and 'dangerous' driving in the eyes of the law is slight and subjective: it's the difference between someone's driving falling below or well below what is expected of a careful and competent driver. But the difference in penalties between these charges is huge. The maximum sentence for causing death by careless driving is only five years, compared to 14 for causing death by dangerous driving. The maximum sentence for causing serious injury by dangerous driving is five years (if heard in a Crown Court), compared to a maximum penalty of a fine only for careless driving. Very often, prosecutors go for the lesser careless driving charges because they are easier to prove. 

In a study to mark the launch of Brake’s new ‘Roads to Justice’ campaign:

  • Nine in 10 (91%) of people questioned agreed that if someone causes a fatal crash when they get behind the wheel after drinking or taking drugs, they should be charged with manslaughter;
  • Two-thirds (66%) of people surveyed believed that drivers who kill while breaking laws should be jailed for a minimum of 10 years;
  • 84% thought that drivers who kill while breaking the law should be charged with dangerous not careless driving;
  • One in five (19.8%) think that drivers who kill should serve a life sentence.[8]

Brake believes charges and penalties for causing death or serious injury should be overhauled. We need to get rid of the split between 'dangerous' and 'careless' so prosecutors aren't tempted to go for an easier won charge that carries inappropriately low penalties and deems driving that has killed or caused serious harm as merely 'careless', terminology that undermines the gravitas of the offence.

Ideally we should have one charge that can be brought against anyone whose driving causes death or serious injury. Judges could still use their discretion to sentence according to the level of risk taken, across the range of penalties up to the maximum of 14 years. At the very least, prosecuting guidelines should be improved so it is clear that if you were taking an illegal risk when you killed or seriously injured someone, such as speeding or using a phone, your driving is automatically deemed 'dangerous' in the eyes of the law.

Drink drivers

In 2013, 240 fatal road crashes, and 1,100 crashes resulting in a serious injury, involved a drink-drive offence [9]. Currently, drink-drivers face an automatic ban and up to six months in jail, but the penalties are the same no matter how many times they re-offend. Some drivers are also placed on a 'high risk offender' scheme if they are repeat drink-drivers or had a high level of alcohol in their blood. Under this scheme drivers have to undergo tests to show they are not alcohol dependent before getting their licence back.

But the current system to tackle repeat drink-driving isn't working: one in eight drink-drivers do it again, and as many as three in 10 'high risk offenders' reoffend. We need the government to get tough with repeat drink-drivers by giving judges the power to hand out higher sentences (potentially up to two years) to repeat drink-drivers. And we need alcohol interlocks [10] fitted in the vehicles of high-risk offenders who are given back their licence, to help prevent reoffending.

Hit-and-run drivers 

If you hit and kill someone when behind the wheel and you're found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you could face up to 14 years in jail. However, if you flee the scene and wait to sober up, you'll most likely be charged with 'hit and run' and face a maximum sentence of six months. We need to end the incentive for drink- and drug-drivers to flee the scene to sober up and ensure hit-and-run drivers who kill or seriously injure face the same penalties as other drivers who inflict such destruction. There must be an assumption that if they fled the scene, they caused the crash through dangerous driving.

Unlicensed drivers

Unlicensed or uninsured drivers have no right to be on roads in the first place. Yet unlicensed and uninsured drivers who kill will only receive the maximum penalty (10 years) if it can be proven in court that they were driving ‘dangerously’. If this cannot be proven, they face a maximum sentence of only two years for ‘causing death by driving when unlicensed or uninsured [11].

Unlicensed driving is often closely linked to uninsured driving. This means that those who kill or injure without a licence often drive an uninsured vehicle and those who are injured or who have lost loved ones receive limited pay out. This is unfair and an additional strain placed on victims, and Brake urges the government to crack down on unlicensed and uninsured drivers.

Brake believes an unlicensed or uninsured driver is driving dangerously simply by getting behind the wheel. If an unlicensed or uninsured driver kills or seriously injures someone, they should face the same maximum penalties as those charged with dangerous driving. 

Sentencing guidelines

Judges decide an offender's jail term based on guidelines from the Sentencing Council. Current guidelines frequently result in low sentences being handed down; they desperately need to be changed.

Driving bans

Brake believes drivers who kill and seriously injure should be taken off the road once they are charged, as a condition of bail. Prosecutions often take months to come to court [12]. In many cases the driver charged is able to continue driving during this time, potentially putting others in danger, and often in the same community where the crash took place, causing further distress to 

Fines as a deterrent

In 2014, there were 1.02 million fixed penalty notices issued for driving offences in England and Wales. This was an 11% fall on the number issued in 2013, continuing a year-on-year downward trend. Nearly three-quarters of fines were issued for speeding offences [13].

Brake believes the £100 fixed penalty fine for driving offences sends a dangerous message that offences like speeding and phone use at the wheel, which can and do lead to death and injury, are not real crimes, and important safety laws need not be taken seriously. Research shows that higher fines pose a stronger deterrent against law-breaking [14], so raising the fixed penalty to £500-£1,000 should encourage wider compliance with vital laws that are in place to protect people. 

Penalty points

The penalty-points system is designed to protect the public from dangerous repeat offenders, but the system is being undermined. Thousands of drivers with 12 points or more have been allowed to retain their licence [15]. Many drivers who have reached 12 points have been using a loophole to keep their licence by claiming it would cause 'exceptional hardship' if they were banned. This loophole needs closing urgently: driving is a privilege, not a right; and if that privilege is not exercised responsibly, it should be revocable. Drivers who reach 12 points should be automatically disqualified to protect themselves and others.

Sentencing disqualified drivers

Drivers who are disqualified have proven they are willing to take life-threatening risks. Disqualified drivers who ignore their ban are likely to pose a serious danger.

In April 2015, the maximum sentence for disqualified drivers who kill was increased from two years to 10 years, and a new offence of ‘causing serious injury by driving while disqualified’ was introduced, with a maximum sentence of four years. This represents important progress, but Brake believes people who repeatedly drive while disqualified should face serious consequences, yet they currently only face a further ban and up to six months in jail no matter how many times they are caught.

We need the government to get tough with these serial offenders, by giving judges the power to hand out higher sentences, potentially up to two years, if someone is caught driving while banned repeatedly. Drivers who kill while disqualified should be prosecuted to the same degree as dangerous drivers who who kill.

Driver re-training courses

Driver re-training courses, often offered as a once-only alternative to a fixed penalty notice for speeding and some other road offences, may help improve attitudes to safe driving for some. However, drivers are incentivised to attend by escaping penalty points, meaning repeat offenders may avoid sanction under the points system. Drivers caught for different offences, such as speeding, mobile phone use and careless driving, can go on multiple courses and avoid receiving points on their licence as long as they don't attended the same course twice. Brake argues it would be better to provide an incentive of a reduced fine to attend courses, so drivers who take risks repeatedly are still sanctioned under the points system. This would be possible if the fixed penalty notice was increased to £500-£1,000 as Brake advocates.


End notes:

[1] Criminal justice system statistics quarterly: December 2015, Ministry of Justice, 2016
[2] Criminal justice system statistics quarterly: December 2015, Ministry of Justice, 2016
[3] Motoring data tool: 2015, Department for Transport, 2015
[4]Police powers and procedures in England and Wales, year ending 31 March 2015: Statistical Bulletin, Home Office, 2015
[5] Police powers and procedures in England and Wales, year ending 31 March 2015: Statistical Bulletin, Home Office, 2015
[6] Prof Richard Allsop, Saving lives by lowering the drink-drive limit, 2015
[7] Brake Poll: 2015-16, Brake
[8] Brake Poll: 2015-16, Brake
[9] Prof Richard Allsop, Saving lives by lowering the drink-drive limit, 2015
[10] Alcohol interlocks are vehicle immobilisers that are activated if a driver is unable to pass a breath test, required to start the engine. They can be linked to a camera to prevent drivers asking someone else to take the test for them.
[11] Driving offences involving death, the Sentencing Council of England and Wales
[12] Average time from offence to completion of trial for an indictable driving offence, such as causing death by dangerous or careless driving, is 120 days and only 47% of cases are completed at the first given trial date. Judicial and court statistics 2010, Ministry of Justice, 2011
[13] Police powers and procedures in England and Wales, year ending 31 March 2015: Statistical Bulletin, Home Office, 2015
[14] Calviño, N. "Public Enforcement in the EU: Deterrent Effect and Proportionality of Fines" European Competition Law Annual 2006: Enforcement of Prohibition of Cartels, 2006
[15]Charity calls for reform to get law-breaking drivers off our roads - 10,000 drivers with 12 points are still driving, Brake, 2011.


                        

Charges and penalties for drivers who kill, maim and endanger

This page outlines some of the most commonly-brought criminal charges and penalties for traffic offences in the UK; and Brake’s concerns about the inadequacy of many of them.

Read about support for road crash victims.

Careless Driving (Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988)

This charge can be brought when driving 'fell below the standard of a careful and competent driver'. It is a trivial charge in its terminology, and in sentences handed out: usually a small fine in a Magistrates Court. Yet this charge is currently often brought in cases of serious injury and when driving is clearly bad, often because prosecutors feel there is a good chance of conviction, compared with bringing a more serious charge. Rather than being prosecuted for "careless" driving, those who drive badly should be prosecuted for dangerous driving, with a range of possible penalties depending on the level of danger posed. If a driver's bad driving resulted in injury or death, they should be charged with an offence that explicitly references that injury or death (see below).

Causing Death by Careless or Inconsiderate Driving (Section 2B of the Road Traffic Act 1988, amended by the Road Safety Act 2006, s. 20)

This charge can be brought when a driver causes a death because their driving 'fell below the standard expected of a careful and competent driver'. It was introduced after concerns were raised about the lack of mention of death in the Careless Driving charge. The maximum penalty is five years in prison and an unlimited fine, but in reality, and as predicted by Brake prior to this charge's introduction, which we opposed, much lower penalties are being imposed, and even the maximum is only just over a third that for 'Causing Death by Dangerous Driving'. Brake does not support this charge: it enables drivers who have caused enormous suffering to be let off with a paltry penalty. The word 'careless' is wholly inappropriate in the context of road deaths caused by bad driving, and insulting to bereaved families, as reported to Brake by families we work with through our support work. Brake believes that cases currently dealt with by Death by Careless Driving should be dealt with by this charge dealt with using the charge Causing Death by Dangerous Driving, with a variety of sentencing powers for judges according to seriousness of the offence.

CASE STUDY: On 31.03.10, The Star newspaper in Sheffield reported two cases of drivers let off for Causing Death by Dangerous Driving for killing by driving far too fast on bends. In the first case, Christopher Deaken-Frith admitted driving 'much too fast' down a Sheffield hill in frosty weather, ending the lives of his two passengers Liam Oliver and Sarah Kate O'Melia. Police estimated a driver would have been able to negotiate the bend 'with ease' if driving at less than 48mph. The speed limit was 30mph. Relatives stormed out of court when Deaken-Frith walked free with a suspended sentence for Causing Death by Careless Driving. In the second case, Nicholas Boothman crashed on a bend that he took at an estimated 50mph-70mph despite wet conditions and a sign warning drivers to take the bend at no more than 40mph. He killed passenger Robert Shaw, and seriously injured passenger Daniel Hallas, who had to have part of his leg amputated. He too walked free with a suspended sentence for Causing Death by Careless Driving.

Dangerous Driving (Section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, amended 1991)

This charge can be brought when driving fell far below the standard expected of a careful and competent driving, where no death occurred. It is not often brought (the charge of Careless Driving being more common). Dangerous driving carries a maximum sentence of two years. This is currently sometimes brought when someone is seriously injured by dangerous driving, although this should cease with the introduction of Causing Serious Injury by Dangerous Driving, as below. However, Brake believes cases currently prosecuted under Careless Driving should be dealt with under this charge instead, for reasons explained above, and the maximum penalty for Dangerous Driving should be higher, in line with the fact that dangerous driving can, and often does, result in death. It should be at least five years, with a variety of sentences handed out up to the maximum, according to the seriousness of the offence.

Causing Death by Dangerous Driving (Section 1 Road Traffic Act 1988, amended 1991) and Causing Death by Careless Driving under the influence of drink or drugs (section 3A Road Traffic Act)

The charge of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving is a much more serious charge than Causing Death by Careless Driving, with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison, but its definition differs in only one word: it can be brought when driving 'fell far below the standard expected of a careful and competent driver'. A similar charge of Causing Death by Careless Driving when under the Influence of Drink or Drugs carries the same maximum penalty. These charges should be brought when there are provable aggravating factors, such as excessive speeding above the limit, overtaking on a blind bend, or driving over the legal limit for alcohol. In most cases, however, the sentence meted out by the courts is much lower than the maximum, unless there are many aggravating factors and multiple deaths. In addition, the tiny difference in definition between this charge and the Charge of Death by Careless Driving means in many cases the more serious charges are not brought, and the lesser charge is brought instead, with its greater chance of conviction, but far lower penalties.

CASE STUDY: A drink driver who killed his schoolboy passenger in an 80mph crash after saying 'I'm wasted' was jailed for only four years, a third of the maximum. Ashley Ogden, 19, gave a lift to 15-year-old Daniel McHugh and a friend. He swerved round a police recovery lorry and shouted 'Come on - chase on!' He later lost control and smashed into a tree and bus stop, killing Daniel. The other passenger suffered a double fracture to his leg, a collapsed lung and broken ribs. Ogden, of Leigh, Greater Manchester, did not have a full licence and was one-and-a-half times over the drink-drive limit when tested two hours after the crash. He pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, driving with excess alcohol and failing to comply with his provisional licence terms. (Daily Mirror, 15 November 2005)

Causing Serious Injury by Dangerous Driving

The government announcement of a new charge of Causing Serious Injury by Dangerous Driving was welcomed by Brake. But Brake remains concerned that families who suffer life-changing serious injury at the hands of a dangerous driver will not receive justice, given the inadequate five year maximum penalty, and given that it will still be necessary to demonstrate driving was 'dangerous' according to the legal definition. In reality, offenders convicted of this are highly unlikely to receive close to the full five years, but even if they do, this does not reflect the life-long suffering of the most serious and debilitating injuries that innocent victims of crashes may suffer, such as permanent brain damage, loss of limbs or paralysis. These injuries destroy lives and devastate families, with many victims needing round-the-clock care. Brake believes this new charge should carry a maximum penalty of 14 years, in line with that for Causing Death by Dangerous Driving. Brake is also concerned drivers who cause serious injury may continue to be let off with the lesser charge of careless driving (as is the case at present) because it is easier to make this charge stick.

Redefining dangerous driving

As outlined above, Brake takes great issue with the existence and definition of careless driving charges, especially in relation to cases where a death or serious injury has occurred or could easily have occurred. 'Careless' is an inappropriate and offensive term to use for bad driving, particularly where it has resulted in horrendous suffering. Driving that is bad (especially if it has already resulted in injury or death or could easily have done so) is dangerous.

Brake believes cases prosecuted under careless driving charges should instead be prosecuted under the charges of Dangerous Driving, Causing Death by Dangerous Driving, and Causing Serious Injury by Dangerous Driving, with a full range of penalties handed out up to the maximum (which should be at least five, 14 and 14 years in prison respectively, all with an unlimited fine), according to the seriousness of the offence (also see section below on sentencing).

At the same time, Brake advocates a redefinition of 'dangerous driving' so these charges may be brought when anyone is found to be driving in a way not in accordance with road safety laws or the Highway Code. This definition is far less subjective and would make it clear to drivers that if they do not driving in accordance with legal requirements, they are posing a danger, and therefore may face these serious charges.

Hit and run drivers

There needs to be a new charge of 'failing to stop following a fatal or serious injury crash'. This would not have any requirement to prove the driver who failed to stop caused the crash, as there can be an assumption that if they fled, they caused it. This is necessary because, at present, British law acts as an incentive for the worst law-breaking drivers to flee a crash if they kill someone. If a drink or drug driver kills someone and remains at the scene, they are likely to be tested for alcohol or drugs, prosecuted for 'causing death by careless driving when under the influence of alcohol or drugs', and face up to 14 years' imprisonment. But if they run away and sober up, and there was no other evidence of careless or dangerous driving, they can only be prosecuted for the minor offence of 'failing to stop or report an accident' which carries a paltry maximum sentence of six months. If someone steals a car, kills someone and remains at the scene, they will be identified by the police as driving a stolen car. They can be prosecuted for 'aggravated vehicle taking' and face a maximum 14 years' imprisonment. Much better to flee, ditch the car, and hope never to be identified. Drivers who hit and run are despicable: to escape the law, they leave behind suffering and dying victims in need of urgent medical attention. The law must be changed to remove this incentive to flee.

Causing Death by Driving Unlicensed, Disqualified or Uninsured

This charge can be brought when a driver causes a death by driving a vehicle on a road while unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured. The maximum penalty is a paltry sentence of two years and unlimited fine. This is in stark contrast to laws against illegal firearms. Carrying an illegal firearm, and not even using it, carries a minimum mandatory five year prison sentence, compared with a maximum of two years for driving illegally and killing. Brake supports this charge but believes the maximum sentence should be in line with that for Causing Death by Dangerous Driving, 14 years. The charge should also include serious injuries.

Driving licence suspension in the run up to trial

Brake believes drivers who kill and maim should be taken off the road once they are charged, as a condition of bail. Prosecutions often take many months to come to court [1], and in many cases the driver charged with causing the crash is able to continue driving, potentially putting other innocent road users in danger, and often in the same community where they caused carnage. This can be incredibly offensive and upsetting to bereaved families and people injured by the driver, but it also means that other people are being put at risk.

If you are a teacher being investigated for misconduct, you are immediately suspended from teaching in school to protect pupils. If you are a doctor suspected of malpractice, you are immediately suspended from practising medicine to ensure no patients are harmed. Yet if you are charged with killing someone because of your bad driving, you are allowed to keep driving until you are sentenced in court, despite the fact that nine in 10 drivers (89%) charged with indictable motoring offences, such as causing death by driving, are convicted [2].

Brake is backing a campaign by Rebecca Still, aged 13, who wants the government to change the law so driving licences are automatically suspended, as a condition of bail, in cases involving death by dangerous or careless driving, or drink driving cases where the driver had at least twice the legal alcohol limit in their blood.

Rebecca's brother Jamie Still, 16, was knocked down and killed on New Year's Eve 2010 by a young driver who was twice the legal alcohol limit and speeding at 50mph in a 30mph limit. The driver was allowed to continue driving around in the same community until nine months later when he was convicted. Rebecca set up a petition to get the law changed, which has already had thousands of signatures. She has received support from Brake and her MP Greg Mulholland, as well her mum and grandparents who have rallied round to help make her campaign a success. Visit www.jamiestillcampaign.co.uk.

Fixed penalties and penalty points

Brake argues that penalties awarded for less serious and more widespread driving offences should be much stronger, to provide a better deterrent against risky behaviour at the wheel. The fixed penalty for driving offences, including speeding and mobile phone use, is currently £100 plus three penalty points. Brake believes this is woefully inadequate, given these crimes can and do lead to terrible crashes, injury and death. Minor crimes that do not pose a direct threat to human life, like littering and smoking in a public place, can be met with a fine of £1,000+. A £100 penalty for driving offences sends out a dangerous message that offences like speeding and phone use at the wheel are not real crimes, and important safety laws need not be taken seriously. Brake argues a fixed penalty of £500-£1,000 would have a significant effect on compliance with these laws, which are in place to protect and safeguard the public.

Brake is also desperately concerned the penalty points system is not working as a way to protect the public from dangerous repeat offenders who show disregard for the law. Brake recently revealed 40% of drivers who have reached 12 points are not disqualified, due to a loophole allowing drivers to keep their licence in 'exceptional circumstances'. This loophole should be closed urgently: those who reach 12 points have been given ample opportunity to comply with the law, and should be automatically disqualified to protect themselves and others.

Low sentences

Bereaved and seriously injured families supported by Brake often say they feel sentences handed to drivers who have caused their suffering are inadequate and this causes additional distress. As well as calling for reform to charges and penalties as above, Brake is concerned that sentencing for driving offences is unduly lenient. To reduce the horrifying frequency of road deaths and injuries, the criminal justice system should send drivers the message that traffic offences are not minor – particularly when they result in tragic loss of a life or debilitating injury. Yet it is extremely rare to see higher range sentences given out; often sentences are at the lower end. Brake believes this is because 'traffic offences' are seen as less serious than other crimes, even when they have resulted in a death or serious injury. The full range of sentences should be handed out, up to and including the maximum in the most serious cases.

The Ministry of Justice reports on motoring offences and sentence lengths. In 2006 there were 381 convictions in England and Wales for serious driving charges for causing death, but only 58 resulted in imprisonment of more than five years (and most of these offenders will be released much earlier) (Motoring Offences and Breath Test Statistics England and Wales 2006). This may sound bad enough, but these figures don't include the many cases of traffic offences resulting in death and injury that were dealt with through the charge of careless or dangerous driving - with significantly lower penalties including, in the case of careless driving, a maximum penalty of a fine. They also don't include the cases that result in no charge at all - this includes cases of pedestrians being hit by cars at significant speeds, often in hit and runs, when the offender was never found or there were no witnesses to prove a traffic offence. A 2002 report by the CPS Inspectorate (A report on the thematic review of the advice, conduct and prosecution of road traffic offences involving fatalities in England and Wales (HMCPSI, 2002)) noted that there was "some evidence of inconsistency of approach particularly in relation to the level of charge in those cases where there was a prosecution. This related mainly to cases where a lesser charge such as careless driving was preferred rather than causing death by dangerous driving". The report made a number of recommendations for improving the prosecution following a death on the road. They included:

  • appointing an experienced prosecutor to receive specialist training in driving offences in each Crown Prosecution Service area, who could also act as first point of contact with the police in these cases;
  • instructing counsel with appropriate experience and expertise to prosecute road death cases in the Crown Court;
  • ensuring that all prosecutors are aware of guidance given in relation to the timing of inquests and summary criminal proceedings;
  • improving the identification and flagging of files by the police and CPS, to improve case management;
  • requesting further information and providing advice to the police in a timely manner;
  • monitoring prosecutions for different offences, outcomes and review decisions;
  • providing revised guidance to CPS prosecutors and reviewing the Driving Offences Charging Standard.

A 2002 report by the transport research agency TRL (Pearce, L, Dangerous driving and the law, Road Safety Research Report no 26 (DTLR, 2002)) confirmed that the 1991 Road Traffic Act, which was designed to reduce the difficulties with the charges of 'careless driving' (where a death had resulted), 'dangerous driving', and 'death by dangerous driving', had not been entirely effective. In the cases it analysed in the report, TRL noted that prosecutors often preferred a charge of 'careless driving' to 'death by dangerous driving' in cases where it could be argued that the latter was more appropriate. It also noted that maximum penalties are rarely used in 'dangerous driving' cases, stating that "cases which appear to be very serious often receive less than half of the maximum sentence." Brake wants the Government to set national standards requiring judges and magistrates to receive appropriate training and advice on traffic offences, including discussion of case studies, to encourage them to implement appropriately tough charges and penalties.

[1] Average time from offence to completion of trial for an indictable motoring offense, such as causing death by dangerous or careless driving, is 120 days and only 47% of cases are completed at the first given trial date. Judicial and court statistics 2010, Ministry of Justice, 2011
[2] Criminal Justice Statistics Quarterly Update to September 2011, Ministry of Justice , 2012

 

 

Cycling around your community

cycle4life_12If you live on or near a busy road, cycling around your community can be difficult and dangerous. Cars now dominate many of our streets, making them unsafe places for pedestrians and cyclists.

Pockets of communities around the UK have worked to create cycling-friendly environments where it is possible for children and adults to cycle to their friends’ houses in safety, or pop round to the corner shop. ‘Home Zones’ have been built with very low speed limits, wide pavements, chicanes, trees and plant pots, road signs, and other design measures that show drivers this is a ‘community space’ and not a ‘through road’. In some rural areas ‘Quiet Lanes’ have been designated, which aim to give priority to walkers, cyclists and also to horse riders.

In 2000, the Transport Act gave local authorities in England the power to designate Home Zones in residential areas and ‘Quiet Lanes’ in rural areas. On these roads the whole space is available for a range of different uses, not just traffic. [i]

Case study: The Methley’s neighbourhood in Leeds was one of the first Home Zones in the UK. Following consultation with residents, Leeds City Council installed traffic calming measures, including a village green area. In a recent opinion poll, 92% of residents who voted said they liked the changes.

Useful links:
www.homezones.org for more information on Home Zones.
Department for Transport Guidance for Local Authorities on Setting Speed Limits (circular 1/06) includes guidance on Home Zones, Quiet Lanes and 20mph limits in communities. Useful for quoting when talking to your local authority.
Brake’s ‘concerned community’ web pages to help you campaign for safer streets in your community.


Cycling to main facilities >>

<< Cycling to school

<< Back to every day cycling

<< Cycle for life home page

 

[i] Department for Transport Circular, 02/2006: The Quite Lanes and Home Zones (England) Regulations 2006

Driving for Zero

Campaigning for zero tolerance of impaired driving

Driving for Zero is Brake's campaign for zero tolerance of impaired driving. It tackles issues relating to alcohol and drugs calling for "none for the road". It also tackles driver tiredness, poor vision and other impairments relating to health. 

One in eight deaths on British roads still involves a driver over the alcohol limit [1], and in 2015 arrests for drug driving soared after a new law enabled police to arrest people who tested positive to illegal and some legal drugs. Many more drivers are impaired by tiredness, poor vision and ill health.

What are we calling for?

Driving for Zero aims to save lives through evidence-led, legislative interventions, including:

  • a lowering of the drink drive limit to an effective zero tolerance level across the UK
  • an extension, to Scotland and N. Ireland, of the England and Wales law prohibiting drug driving
  • compulsory eyesight tests for drivers
  • rigorous enforcement of laws relating to impairment, including driving hours, and tough penalties for offenders

We are also working to

  • Tackle impairment within commercial fleets, including driver health checks and technology that prevents and warns of impaired driving.
  • Educate law-abiding drivers about how to avoid low-level driver impairment, which can also cause crashes

 Take action

Visit our Driving for Zero campaign pages

 

Emergency services urged to take action on speed in Road Safety Week

 

Brake, the road safety charity
 
15 August 2012
Tel: 01484 559909 Email: news@brake.org.uk 
 
 
Emergency services are being encouraged to help raise awareness about the life-saving importance of slowing down by running 2young2die workshops and other activities during Road Safety Week (19-25 November), the UK’s flagship road safety event coordinated by the charity Brake. It’s a chance for emergency service workers to share their first-hand experiences of the consequences of dangerous driving, and make use free resources from Brake and as part of a UK-wide initiative. 
 
Brake’s theme for Road Safety Week 2012 is ‘Slower speeds = happy people’. Brake will be promoting the importance of making it safer for everyone to walk and cycle, without fear from fast traffic, for health and enjoyment. Brake will be appealing to drivers to slow down to 20mph in communities to protect people on foot and bike. Emergency services can tie their activities to this theme, or focus on other road safety issues.
 
Each year thousands of communities, schools and organisations get involved in Road Safety Week by taking action on road safety and running local educational and awareness activities – and emergency services are often at the heart of this. Register now to get a free e-action pack with resources, guidance and ideas on getting involved at www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk.
 
Brake is particularly calling on emergency services to coordinate 2young2die workshops for young people, highlighting the dangers of speeding and other deadly behaviour like drink and drug driving. Brake runs low-cost courses and provides resource packs to facilitate delivery of these workshops. See forthcoming training dates. Emergency services can also support young people to develop their own slow down campaigns, which can be entered into Brake’s national 2young2die awards, sponsored by ikube ®. 
 
Brake is also encouraging police forces to run enforcement and awareness activities, such as community speed watch involving local schools and groups, to help get the slow down message out during the Week.
 
Brake deputy chief executive Julie Townsend says: “Road Safety Week is a great opportunity to work together to make our streets and communities safer, more pleasant places. In previous years emergency services have played a critical role, coordinating high impact activities to promote vital messages, and using your experience dealing with the aftermath of crashes to get the message across powerfully. This year Brake is focusing on the importance of making roads safer for people to walk and cycle – and the difference drivers can make by slowing down. We’re encouraging emergency services to help get this message across, through local community engagement, enforcement and publicity activities, and through working with young people as part of our 2young2die programme. Register now on the Road Safety Week website for free resources and ideas.”
 
Go to www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk then road safety professionals then emergency services for more ideas and to register for a free email action pack. 
 
About Brake
 
Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 65 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week(19-25 November 2012), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake’s support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.
 
Road crashes are not accidents; they are man-made, preventable, violent events that devastate lives. Brake does not use the term accidents because it undermines work to reduce road risk and causes insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by road death or injury.
 
Ikube 
iKube is an insurance product offered through Motaquote in conjunction with a number of insurance providers.
Established in 1991, Motaquote specialises in a wide range of personal and commercial lines insurance. Headquartered in Williamstown, South Wales it is part of nationwide group, Cullum Capital Ventures (CCV).Cullum Capital Ventures (CCV), part of the Towergate Group, is one of the UK’s largest independently owned insurance intermediaries with more than 800 staff. Headquartered in Maidstone, it offers a wide range of general insurance products nationwide.   For regional brokers looking to sell their business, CCV can provide flexible full or partial ownership solutions. Businesses can continue to trade under their own brand, while CCV is committed to providing full support across all management functions.
 

 

Karl Turner, MP for Hull East, October 2011

KarlTurnerKarl Turner, Kingston Upon Hull East MP, has won Brake and Direct Line's Road Safety Parliamentarian of the Month Award for his successful campaign for justice for families who experience the devastation of a serious injury at the hands of a dangerous driver.

Following Karl's campaign, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke announced a new charge of 'causing serious injury by dangerous driving' earlier this month. Read the announcementand Brake's reaction.

Currently, there is no charge that specifically recognises the causing of serious injury while driving. Those who inflict serious injury through reckless and irresponsible behaviour may only be charged with 'dangerous driving', which carries a maximum of two years in jail, or 'careless driving', which carries a maximum penalty of a fine and disqualification. Read Brake's campaignfor justice for seriously injured victims of dangerous driving.

Before Karl entered Parliament, he worked as a criminal barrister on dangerous driving cases. He was struck by the inadequacy of sentencing for dangerous drivers who have inflicted serious injury.

When he was elected in 2010, Karl was approached by the father of constituent Katie Harper. Katie and her mother were hit by an overtaking vehicle. Katie, 23, suffered horrendous injury meaning she is unlikely to ever walk again and had to spend months in hospital, including multiple breaks to her pelvis, two broken arms, facial injury and serious nerve damage to her leg. Her mother was left with permanent injuries to her hands. Her father has had to retire early to provide round the clock care to his family. Read moreabout the case.

Karl was moved to use his influence to rectify the indecent lack of justice for families who have been affected by serious injury caused by dangerous drivers. Read about Karl's campaign.

Karl met with Brake in May 2011 to discuss action he could take. He took advice from Judge Mettyear, who said he believed every judge would support action on the issue. He agreed it is an anomaly that dangerous driving causing serious injury carries a maximum sentence of two years, whereas causing death by dangerous driving carries a maximum of 14 years. Karl also met with Chief Constable Tim Hollis and then Victims' Commissioner Louise Casey who gave their support.

On 17 May 2011 Karl presented a Private Member's Bill to Parliament, calling for an increase in the maximum sentence for conviction of dangerous driving from two years to seven to better reflect the impact on the families of victims.

On 22 June Karl led a debate in Parliamenton sentencing for dangerous drivers, to raise awareness. He also Karl tabled an Early Day Motion, calling on fellow MPs to support the campaign. On 6 July, he asked a questionto David Cameron, asking for support to improve justice for seriously injured victims of dangerous drivers. Mr Cameron agreed it was an issue that needs to be addressed.

Karl then met with Justice Secretary Ken Clarke and Victims Minister Crispin Blunt. During the meeting Ken Clarke agreed there was an anomaly in the law and he would seek to address this.

Julie Townsend, Brake campaigns director, said: "Brake welcomes this new offence, which will help provide justice to families whose lives have been ripped apart by dangerous drivers. As a charity that supports bereaved and seriously injured road crash victims, we hear first-hand about the pain and suffering they experience, and repeatedly see these families being grossly let down by the justice system, which only adds to their trauma. We congratulate Karl for his success in playing a key role in bringing about this vital change in the law."

Karl Turner MP said: "I am delighted to have won Brake and Direct Line's Parliamentarian of the Month. I am pleased that the government have seen sense and listened to calls for an increase to the sentence for dangerous driving. This offence can destroy lives leaving victims brain damaged, paralysed and sometimes with amputations. The government should be putting the victim at the heart of our judicial system and this change in the dangerous driving law goes someway to doing that."

Local MP wins national award for campaign for tougher penalties for dangerous drivers

3 March 2014

Brake, the road safety charity
news@brake.org.uk

Chris Skidmore, MP for Kingswood, has been given a national road safety award by the charity Brake and Direct Line Group for campaigning in parliament to reform the law on dangerous driving.

Chris launched his campaign in response to the tragic deaths of two of his constituents, Ross and Clare Simons, at the hands of a dangerous driver in January 2013.

Ross and Clare were knocked off their tandem bike and left for dead by Nicholas Lovell, who was banned from driving at the time. He had 11 previous convictions for driving whilst disqualified.

Lovell was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving. The judge, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, imposed a sentence of 10 years and six months, the maximum the charge would allow after Lovell had pleaded guilty, as well as a life-time driving ban. However, Lovell could be out of jail in as little as six years.

Ross and Clare's families were shocked that Lovell could be released so soon after killing their loved ones. After the trial, Chris told them he would do everything in his power to secure better justice for bereaved families. Together with Ross and Clare's families, he launched a campaign to ensure disqualified drivers who kill are given much stronger sentences.

As part of the campaign, Chris and the families handed in the 'Justice 4 Ross and Clare' petition to 10 Downing Street, with over 15,000 signatures from supporters all over the country.

On 27 January 2014, Chris secured a backbench debate on dangerous driving, which was strongly attended by MPs from all parties. The debate heard a range of MPs relay the harrowing and tragic cases of their own constituents who had been killed by reckless law-breaking drivers. They spoke of family anguish and the devastation that senseless road deaths wreak on communities.

Chris's debate illustrated the depth of all-party support for changes in the law. Other MPs called for removing the distinction between 'causing death by careless driving' and 'causing death by dangerous driving' to stop drivers who kill and injure being let off on a lesser charge with much lower penalties, as well as tougher sentences for repeat offenders and for drivers who kill or injure.

Chris hopes to secure another meeting with the Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, to get an update on the government's plans and intentions for possible future legislation. Chris is also hopeful that the Sentencing Council will review the points raised in the backbench debate.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: "We are very glad that Chris has brought this vitally important issue to the fore. Every day on our roads risky, illegal drivers end lives senselessly, inflict terrible injuries, and cause devastation to families, friends and communities. Every MP who spoke in the dangerous driving debate had stories of tragedies in their constituency where victim families were left feeling betrayed by our justice system. It is critical that sentences for these crimes properly reflect the seriousness of the devastation they cause, to ensure justice for families and to deter risky, illegal driving."

Chris Skidmore, MP for Kingswood, said: "I'm extremely humbled to receive this award, but only wish that it didn't have to be in the tragic circumstances of Ross and Clare's deaths. Both families of the couple have worked so hard to ensure that we have raised the campaign for tougher sentences for serial dangerous drivers who are already disqualified from driving to a national level. We will be continuing the campaign to change the law on dangerous driving - as the debate in Parliament showed, this is something that MPs from all parties want to see happen, and now is the time for change."

Read about Brake's Crackdown campaign for tougher penalties for drivers who kill and injure.

Notes for editors

Brake
Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 63 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (17-23 November 2014), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake's support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

Direct Line
Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by UK Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England No 1179980. UK Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc. Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0845 246 3761 or visiting www.directline.com.

Local MP wins prestigious award for outstanding contribution to road safety

15 January 2014

Brake, the road safety charity
news@brake.org.uk

Rehman Chishti, MP for Gillingham and Rainham, has been given a prestigious national award for his work vigorously campaigning for tougher penalties for repeat drink drivers and other offenders who endanger lives on our roads.

Rehman received the 'Parliamentarian of the Year: National Campaigner' award at road safety charity Brake's annual reception at the Houses of Parliament last night, sponsored by Direct Line Group (photo attached).

Since being elected to office, Rehman has spearheaded a number of campaigns aimed at tackling persistent and extreme driving offenders who risk causing horrific crashes. He has used his experience as a lawyer to identify and push for changes to the way these drivers are dealt with to help reduce reoffending.

In July 2013 he tabled a Drink Driving (Repeat Offenders) Bill, calling for drink drivers to receive a prison sentence of up to two years if convicted for a third time or more. Currently the maximum sentence a drink driver can receive, unless they cause a death or serious injury, is six months in prison, no matter how many times they offend. He met with the road safety and justice ministers to ask for their support and spoke out in the media, appearing on BBC News, BBC London and BBC Radio Kent to argue for the Bill.

In September, in response to annual figures showing a 17% rise in drink drive deaths, Rehman wrote a passionate letter to The Times arguing the courts need more powers to tackle persistent drink drivers, which would be addressed by his Bill.

In December, Rehman tabled two more Bills on disqualified drivers. The first calls for drivers who receive a third offence for driving when disqualified to be referred to crown court and receive a sentence of up to two years. The second calls for the maximum custodial penalty for causing death by driving while disqualified to increase from two to 14 years' imprisonment, in line with the penalty for causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by driving under the influence of drink or drugs.

Rehman was able to secure a Westminster Hall Debate on road safety on 10 December 2013, where he spoke passionately about the importance of road safety and the Bills he had proposed. He asked the road safety minister to consider other initiatives to tackle drink driving and repeat offenders, such as in-vehicle 'alcohol-lock' systems for repeat drink drivers, already used in other EU countries, and lowering the threshold for entry into the high-risk offender rehabilitation scheme for high-end and repeat drink drivers.

The minister welcomed the debate, stating his belief that "even one death on roads is too many", and that the Department for Transport and Ministry of Justice will work together to consider a review of sentences and penalties for these types of offences.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, the road safety charity, said: "Rehman's campaign is a critical one if we are to successfully tackle devastating and needless road deaths and injuries. Drivers who repeatedly take appalling risks like drink driving, and ignore driving bans, are a menace and all too often their actions result in deaths or life-changing injuries that cause enormous suffering. It's vital we have the laws in place to enable these deadly drivers to be dealt with effectively, to prevent reoffending and to act as a strong deterrent, as well as ensuring justice is done. We will continue to work with Rehman in 2014, to urge the Ministry of Justice and Department of Transport to ensure we have suitably tough charges and penalties to deal with life-threatening behaviour on our roads."

Rehman said: "It has been a real privilege and pleasure to work with Brake, who do such an amazing job in working with government and departmental agencies to make our roads a safer place for all. I am very honoured to have been awarded this prestigious Parliamentarian of the Year award, as there were many other fantastic candidates. I will continue to passionately work on tackling drink driving and driving while disqualified."

Brake
Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 63 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (17-23 November 2014), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake's support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

Direct Line Insurance Group plc
Direct Line Insurance Group plc (Direct Line Group) is headquartered in Bromley, Kent; it has operations in the UK, Germany and Italy.

Through its number of well known brands Direct Line Group offers a wide range of general insurance products to consumers. These brands include; Direct Line, Churchill and Privilege. It also offers insurance services for third party brands through its Partnerships division. In the commercial sector, its NIG and Direct Line for Business operations provide insurance products for businesses via brokers or direct respectively.

In addition to insurance services, Direct Line Group continues to provide support and reassurance to millions of UK motorists through its Green Flag breakdown recovery service and TRACKER stolen vehicle recovery and telematics business.

Nigel Evans MP wins award for rural road safety efforts

News from Brake
Friday 31 August 2018
 
Nigel Evans, MP for the Ribble Valley, has today been named as Road Safety Parliamentarian of the Month for August 2018, by Brake, the road safety charity, and Direct Line Group.
 
The award recognises Nigel’s efforts to improve road safety in his constituency, in particular work to improve rural road safety - a priority issue for Brake as the majority of road deaths occur on these roads. Nigel has been leading the charge for road safety in recent months by tackling dangerous speeding on Pendleton Road, successfully lobbying for a roundabout to be installed at the dangerous Sabden Junction on the A59, and calling for extra money from Government to accelerate the repair of the many bad potholes in his constituency.
 
Nigel’s most recent effort to improve road safety in his constituency has focussed on tackling speeding motorists on the rural roads in and around Pendleton. Nigel was motivated to tackle this issue after witnessing motorists speeding through the village of Pendleton and was concerned about the risk posed to children, who are some of our most vulnerable road users. Nigel has requested traffic calming measures be installed by Lancashire County Council and spoke with the Chief Constable of Lancashire Police calling for greater enforcement of the speed limits.
 
Brake has long recognised the dangers of speed on rural roads. Most rural roads in the UK have a 60mph limit, the national default for single carriageway roads, however, such roads are often unsuitable for high speeds as they are narrow, with blind bends, and no pavements or cycle paths. Brake wants to see constituency activity by parliamentarians on rural roads, supported by government action at a national level. Brake is calling for a reduction in the national default speed limit on rural roads to deliver slower, safer roads.
 
Brake will also be using Road Safety Week 2018 to get their message across about the dangers of rural roads. Rural roads pose a significant risk to vulnerable road users such as motorcyclists and cyclists – the focus of this year’s Road Safety Week theme ‘Bike Smart’. Brake will be reiterating its calls for a reduced national default limit to protect the safety of all road users and particularly the most vulnerable.
 
Joshua Harris, Director of Campaigns for Brake, the road safety charity, said:
 
 
“Brake is delighted to recognise Nigel’s commitment to road safety in his constituency with this award – it is thoroughly deserved. His campaign to tackle speeding on rural roads should be especially highlighted; the majority of road deaths in Britain happen on rural roads, and the cause is often speed-related.
 
“Rural road safety is a key focus of the Government’s new two-year road safety action plan. The Government must grasp this opportunity to improve rural road safety and introduce a lower default speed limit.  Slower speeds save lives and help make our streets more liveable environments for all.”
 
 
Accepting his award, Nigel Evans MP said:
 
 
“I’m grateful for this recognition which raises the importance of this issue- as it is literally life and death, and life changing when people, Governments and local authorities get it wrong.
 
“I have just completed a tour of my constituency with 42 stops at villages throughout the Ribble Valley where I’ve dealt with concerns of my constituents. The number one top issue has been speeding traffic, dangerous driving and the state of the roads. I met one cyclist who had been thrown from her bicycle and suffered bruises because she hit a pothole.
 
“Since raising Pendleton’s woes many people contacted me about their own areas traffic issues with calls for average speed cameras in rural and residential areas. I hope that the concerns of genuinely worried residents will now be taken seriously and urgently before more deaths and injuries and misery occurs.”
 
Gus Park, Managing Director of Motor Insurance at Direct Line Group, said:
 
"We applaud Nigel's efforts as we see so many crashes at junctions, especially when drivers are turning right. We have also seen an increase in pothole related damage to vehicles and welcome all Nigel's campaigning to make these roads safer."
 
ENDS
 
For further information contact: news@brake.org.uk
 
Notes to Editors:
 
About Brake
Brake is a national road safety and sustainable transport charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies.
We do this through national campaigns, community education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.
Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.
About Direct Line Insurance Group plc
 
Direct Line Group is headquartered in Bromley. Through its number of well known brands the Group offers a wide range of general insurance products to consumers. These brands include Direct Line, Churchill and Privilege. The Group also provides insurance services for third parties through its partnerships division, Direct Line Group Partnerships. In the commercial sector, the Group's NIG and Direct Line for Business operations offer insurance products for businesses distributed through brokers or direct, respectively.

One year on and still no sign of tougher sentences for killer drivers

News from Brake
Monday 15 October 2018
news@brake.org.uk
 
Road safety campaigners across the country remain perplexed by the Government’s refusal to deliver justice for the victims and bereaved families of road crashes. Exactly one year on from the announcement of tougher sentences for drivers who kill and seriously injure [1], the Government has failed to bring forward legislation and Brake, the road safety charity, and families of road crash victims across the UK are still waiting for justice.
 
On 15 October 2017, the Ministry of Justice announced plans for killer drivers to face life behind bars, following successful campaigning from Brake on behalf of road crash victims. Life sentences are to be introduced for those who cause death by dangerous driving or cause death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs, and a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving will be created.
 
One year on from the announcement, and despite repeated questioning in the House of Commons by Bradford South MP Judith Cummins – Brake’s Parliamentarian of the Year and a vocal campaigner on tackling dangerous driving [2] - the Justice Minister has been unable to say when the tougher sentences would be implemented [3], stating that they would be incorporated with the findings of government’s review of cycle safety [4], a process with no end in sight and one which is taking a fundamentally flawed approach to road justice reform [5].
 
Commenting on the delay in implementation, Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said:
 
“It is completely unacceptable that these new tougher sentences have not yet been implemented. The Government needs to focus its attention on the issues which matter most to road safety - delivering justice for road crash victims and keeping dangerous drivers off our roads. The intentions behind the ongoing cycling offences review are sound but the prioritisation of this issue ahead of dangerous drivers is illogical and simply putting the cart before the horse.”
 
“Drivers who kill or seriously injure all too often receive lenient sentences. By delaying the introduction of new tougher sentences, the Government is causing further suffering to families who have lost loved ones in road crashes. The Government must implement these tougher sentences as first priority, delivering on their promise to road crash victims, and then initiate a review of the flawed legal framework for road justice.”
 
[ENDS]
 
Notes to editors:
[3] Ministry of Justice response to Written Question from Judith Cummins MP, Bradford South.
Dangerous Driving: Sentencing, Commons, 137592: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, with reference to the press release entitled Life sentences for killer drivers, published by his Department on 15 October 2017, what progress he has made on (a) implementing an increase to the maximum penalty for the offences of causing death by (i) dangerous driving and (ii) careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs to life imprisonment and (b) creating a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.
Answered by: Rory Stewart MP, Justice Minister, on 27 April 2018
The government is committed to making sure that the courts have sufficient powers to deal with driving offences appropriately and proportionately. We will bring forward proposals for changes in the law as soon as parliamentary time allows. These proposals will take account of, and incorporate, all of government’s proposals for safer roads, including those arising from the Department of Transport’s review of cycle safety.
 
About Brake
Brake is a national road safety and sustainable transport charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies.
 
We do this through national campaigns, community education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.
Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

Report 4 - Risky Business

Report 4 - Risky BusinessPublished 2011

Not only do many of us under-estimate the risks of using roads, but this under-estimation may itself heighten the dangers. Using roads is, for most of us, the most dangerous thing we do each day, yet because of its mundane nature, it's easy to forget this, and forget to take steps to be safer.

This report shows that many of us feel disproportionately safe behind the wheel, cocooned within the comforts of our vehicle, and often forgetting to look out for others. Yet most of us acknowledge the dangers of using roads in some way, such as through fears for loved ones, and an appreciation of risks faced by the most vulnerable road users, like children.

Perhaps the overriding message is the importance of connecting these dangers faced by our loved ones and children to our own driving behaviour, acknowledging that the way we drive has a direct impact on our own safety and that of others.

Main findings:

  • Almost all drivers (98%) think they are safer than, or as safe as, the average driver
  • Nearly a third (31%) feel safest when driving a car compared to other modes of transport, while only 5% said they feel safest being a passenger in a car compared to other modes.
  • More than eight in 10 drivers (83%) worry that a loved one may be killed on the road (83%), and one in nine people constantly worry about it.
  • More than two-thirds (70%) consciously worry about being hit by traffic when they are walking.
  • Almost four in 10 (39%) people who never cycle say they would given safe routes in their community

Press releases from this report:

Fears for kids' safety during school holidays, 20 July 2011
Safer routes needed to get one in five of us cycling, 26 May 2011
Drivers blame everyone else for bad driving, 9 March 2011
Men urged to pledge to drive safely this Valentine's Day, 11 February 2011

Roads to Justice: campaign calls

Brake’s #RoadsToJustice campaign seeks to ensure that our legal system delivers just and safe outcomes. We are calling upon the Government to:

  1. Simplify and improve the legal definitions of unsafe driving behaviour
  2. Increase the use of driving disqualifications and close the “exceptional hardship” loophole
  3. Increase the current six month maximum prison sentence for failing to stop

The 'Careless’ or ‘Dangerous' issue

Simplify and improve the legal definitions of unsafe driving behaviour

When a driver causes a death or serious injury, they might be prosecuted with 'causing death by dangerous driving' or 'causing death by careless driving'. When a driver causes a serious injury, they might be prosecuted with 'causing serious injury by dangerous driving' (a charge introduced in 2012) or simply 'careless driving'. 

The difference between 'careless' and 'dangerous' driving in the eyes of the law is slight and subjective: it's the difference between someone's driving falling below or well below what is expected of a careful and competent driver. But the difference in penalties between these charges is huge. The maximum sentence for causing death by careless driving is only five years, compared to 14 for causing death by dangerous driving. The maximum sentence for causing serious injury by dangerous driving is five years (if heard in a Crown Court), compared to a maximum penalty of a fine only for careless driving. Very often, prosecutors go for the lesser careless driving charges because they are easier to prove. 

Brake believes charges and penalties for causing death or serious injury should be overhauled. We need to ensure that prosecutors aren't tempted to go for an easier won charge that carries inappropriately low penalties and deems driving that has killed or caused serious harm as merely 'careless', terminology that undermines the gravitas of the offence.

Driving disqualifications

Increase the use of driving disqualifications and close the “exceptional hardship” loophole

Driving is a privilege, not a right, and those who show a disregard for the law shouldn’t be allowed to endanger others.

The penalty-points system is designed to protect the public from dangerous repeat offenders, but the system is being undermined. Thousands of drivers with 12 points or more have been allowed to retain their licence. Many drivers who have reached 12 points have been using a loophole to keep their licence by claiming it would cause 'exceptional hardship' if they were banned. This loophole needs closing urgently: driving is a privilege, not a right; and if that privilege is not exercised responsibly, it should be revocable. Drivers who reach 12 points should be automatically disqualified to protect themselves and others.

Brake also believes that drivers who kill and seriously injure should be taken off the road once they are charged, as a condition of bail. Prosecutions often take months to come to court and in many cases the driver charged is able to continue driving during this time, potentially putting others in danger, and often in the same community where the crash took place.

Hit-and-run drivers 

Increase the current six month maximum prison sentence for failing to stop

If you hit and kill someone when behind the wheel and you're found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you could face up to 14 years in jail. However, if you flee the scene and wait to sober up, you'll most likely be charged with 'hit and run' and face a maximum sentence of six months.

We need to end the incentive for drink- and drug-drivers to flee the scene to sober up and ensure hit-and-run drivers who kill or seriously injure face the same penalties as other drivers who inflict such destruction. There must be an assumption that if they fled the scene, they caused the crash through dangerous driving.

Take action

We want you to help us raise the volume of this campaign. We need the Government to hear, loud and clear, that our legal system needs an overhaul to deliver just and safe outcomes. Support our campaign with the below actions.

writetomp2sm

Susan Elan Jones, MP for Clwyd South

susan elan jonesSusan Elan Jones, MP for Clwyd South, has been given a national road safety award by the charity Brake and Direct Line Group for her work campaigning for longer jail terms for drivers who kill or seriously injure.

Susan launched her campaign after the tragic death of nine-year-old, Robert Gaunt, who was run over and killed by driver David Lunn, 65, in 2009.

Lunn, had no licence, no insurance and failed to stop when he hit and killed Robert. He was given a 22 month prison sentence, but served just 10 months.

The maximum sentence for causing a death when driving unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured is two years in jail, and the maximum for killing someone and failing to stop and report it is up to six months. This compares to a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison for drivers convicted of causing death by dangerous driving.

Susan brought forward The Driving Offences (Review of Sentencing Guidelines) Bill under a 10-minute rule bill in January: she called for the government to reconsider the maximum jail sentences for driving that leads to death and serious injury, including unlicensed and hit and run drivers.

After being contacted by Robert Gaunt's family and other local residents in 2010 outraged over the lack of justice following Robert's death, Susan determined to take up the call in Parliament. Since then, Susan has been in regular contact with the family and has written letters, worked in the media, tabled parliamentary questions and lobbied ministers to raise awareness of this gross injustice.

In 2011, Susan drew the attention of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Crispin Blunt, to her campaign and urged him to consider a review of maximum sentences for serious driving offences. While he noted her concerns, this time the Minister did not accept the need for a review.

Susan was able to secure cross party support for her Private Member's Bill - in January 2014 - calling for a review. Numerous other MPs across different parties said they had experienced similar cases to Robert's in their own constituencies, and were equally concerned about the issue of justice for bereaved and seriously injured road crash victims.

The formal date for second reading in Parliament is 28 February and the Ministry of Justice is now committed to reviewing the law surrounding serious driving offences.

Susan has been speaking to MPs across different political parties to try to ensure the issue is kept at the forefront of the political debate, and vows to continue working on the campaign.

Read about Brake's 'Crackdown' campaign.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, the road safety charity, said: “We’re fully behind Susan’s campaign, which is vital in helping to secure justice for families who have been devastated by road death or serious injury. Risky, illegal driving frequently ends lives violently and needlessly, and inflicts appalling suffering on families and communities, which we bear witness to through our support services for crash victims. It’s crucial these offences are taken seriously and appropriately tough sentences are handed out, to deter risky driving and ensure justice is done. We applaud Susan’s work, and look forward to continuing to work alongside her in the future.”
 
Susan Elan Jones, MP for Clwyd South said: “Brake is an outstanding campaigning organisation - and I am absolutely delighted to receive this award. However, this award also belongs to local campaigners and Overton-on-Dee Community Council who have worked with me throughout on this campaign. We remain determined in our quest to work with Brake to secure some measure of justice for the family of those people so tragically killed or seriously injured on our roads.”