Killer drivers to face life sentence

Dangerous drivers who kill on the road could face a life prison sentence, according to new Government proposals.

Ministers behind the plan suggest a maximum sentence of 14 years, similar to that of manslaughter.

It would apply to any motorist causing death by dangerous or careless driving, including speeding, street racing or driving while using a mobile phone, as well as offenders under the influence of drink or drugs.

If successful, the maximum sentences will more than treble the average sentence in 2015, which sits at just under four years.

A further proposal suggests creating a new offence for “causing serious injury by careless driving”, which would carry a maximum sentence of three years.

In 2015,122 people were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving, and 21 for causing death by careless driving while under the influence.

What is death by dangerous driving?

In the eyes of the law, a person is to be regarded as driving dangerously for the purposes of sections 1 and 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 if:

  • the way he/she drives falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous; or
  • if it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving the vehicle in its current state (for the purpose of the determination of which regard may be had to anything attached to or carried on or in it, and to the manner in which it is attached or carried) would be dangerous.

A person convicted of causing death by dangerous driving is currently liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years, and disqualification from driving for a minimum of two years.

Your defence

In order to be found guilty of death by dangerous driving, the Court must prove causation between the manner of driving and death.

In some cases, it might be possible to prove that the death wasn’t caused directly by you, for example, the manner of driving of another vehicle involved. 

Automatism can also be presented as a defence. You would need to prove that an unforeseeable event happened while you were driving which incapacitated you from operating the vehicle, for example, you were stung by a bee or suffered a certain medical problem.

You can further prove that your manner of driving did not fall below the standard expected from a competent and careful driver.

In other cases, your defence will work to reduce the sentence reflecting your level of culpability in the crime.

How can we help?

Death by dangerous driving is the most serious motor offence in England and Wales. As such, expert legal representation should be sought as soon as possible after the incident has happened.

Our criminal law expertise is reflected in our membership of the Law Society’s Criminal Litigation Accreditation Scheme, awarded only to solicitors that achieve a high level of knowledge, skills, experience and practice in this type of work.

We are also on the panel of solicitors allowed to conduct very high cost cases by the Legal Aid Agency’s complex crime unit.

Members of our team are also accredited to provide criminal advocacy services in the higher courts – Crown Court, High Court, the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in England and Wales – by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), by achieving and maintaining tough competency standards.

For more information, contact us today.