Brake’s #RoadsToJustice campaign seeks to ensure that our legal system delivers just and safe outcomes. We are calling upon the Government to:
- Simplify and improve the legal definitions of unsafe driving behaviour
- Increase the use of driving disqualifications and close the “exceptional hardship” loophole
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Write to your local MP using our easy to use template.
- Respond to the Government’s cycling offences consultation. Tell the Government why you believe a broader review of road traffic offences is a necessity, highlighting our three key calls to government.
- Tweet your support: @Brakecharity, #RoadsToJustice
- Fundraise for Brake. Your fundraising support helps us to continue our quest for safer roads and helps us deliver our crucial support for road crash victims.