Brake welcomes tougher sentencing for drivers who kill

Friday 22 May 2015

Brake, the road safety charity 

Brake, the road safety charity, has welcomed figures published yesterday (21 May 2015) by the Ministry of Justice showing more drivers convicted of killing are going to jail for longer.

The annual criminal justice statistics for 2014 show three in five drivers (60%) convicted of causing death in England and Wales receive immediate custodial sentences, up from just over half (54%) in 2013. The average sentence length for these drivers is four years, up from three and a half years in 2013 [1].

This change is in part due to increased use of the more serious ‘causing death by dangerous driving’ charge compared with the lesser ‘causing death by careless driving’ charge. Prosecutions for the former are up from 144 in 2013 to 176 in 2014, while prosecutions for the latter are down from 234 in 2013 to 205 in 2014. This reverses a decline in the use of the ‘causing death by dangerous driving’ charge that had been ongoing since 2007. Brake has previously expressed concern that the lesser charge was being inappropriately used in many serious cases where deliberate and illegal risks were taken by drivers.

A comprehensive Ministry of Justice review of driving charges and penalties is ongoing. It is hoped this will deliver further improvements in achieving justice for victims of criminal driving and their families, and in showing that risky, illegal driving will not be tolerated.

The 2014 figures also show that prosecutions for all motoring offences are up 4.5%, mainly due to a 26% increase in speeding prosecutions. Other offences, including drink driving, careless driving and using a mobile phone while driving, have seen small decreases.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: “Brake has long campaigned for better justice for bereaved and injured road crash victims and their families, who are often left feeling betrayed by the use of inappropriately-termed charges and lenient sentences. Drivers who have killed while taking illegal risks have too often been labelled ‘careless’ in the eyes of the law, and given insultingly low sentences, when their actions can only be described as dangerous and destructive. It is encouraging that we are starting to see this trend being reversed, with more offenders being appropriately charged with causing a death by dangerous driving, and receiving tougher sentences that better reflect the consequences of their actions. There is more work to be done, but this could be the start of a culture shift towards treating driving offences with the gravity they deserve; we are hopeful that the government’s ongoing review will deliver further improvements.”

Brake campaigns for tougher penalties for drivers who kill, injure and endanger, alongside heightened enforcement, through its crackdown campaign. Tweet us @Brakecharity, #crackdown.


Brake is a national road safety charity 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.

Brake was founded in the UK in 1995, and now has domestic operations in the UK and New Zealand, and works globally to promote action on road safety.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog. Follow Julie Townsend on Twitter.

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.

End notes

[1] Criminal justice system statistics quarterly: December 2014, Ministry of Justice, 2015

Tags: sentencing ministry of justice