The charge, brought in in 2008, has led to a significant increase in the number of road deaths recognised by the courts
RoadPeace, the national charity for road collision victims, has published a report highlighting the impact of the ‘causing death by careless driving’ charge since its introduction 10 years ago.
The charge, which became law on 18 August 2008, fixed a discrepancy that had meant up to then that should someone die as a result of a road traffic collision that was not deemed to meet the standards of ‘dangerous driving,’ the only charge available to prosecutors was ‘driving without due care and attention’ which was effectively a minor traffic offence akin to backing in to a tree. It meant that a significant number of deaths from road traffic collisions were not pursued to court or not sufficiently recognised by the courts meaning that the drivers responsible for a person’s death were not required to turn up to the Magistrates Court for sentencing.
One decade on, the report has found that since coming into legalisation, more than 2,000 road deaths have been recognised and prosecuted as caused by careless driving in England and Wales. In contrast to just one in ten fatal collisions on the roads resulting in conviction in 2008 by 2017 that had become one in four.
"The system is still not perfect and more work still needs to be done. Road crime must be treated as real crime."
Critics of the sentence’s introduction were concerned that dangerous drivers would face a lesser charge for their crimes, however the report shows this is not the case. As of 2017, a driver in a fatal collision in England or Wales was more likely to be prosecuted for causing death by dangerous driving than they were before the charge was introduced.
David Robinson, Chair of RoadPeace North East and Thompsons Solicitors’ professional support lawyer, said: “this is an important report from RoadPeace usefully looking back at the impact of the charge being bought in and contrasting today’s situation with the unfairness before. The introduction of this legislation has certainly been positive for the families who have lost a loved one enabling them to see a reckless driver being taken to court and the consequences of their poor driving being taken seriously by the courts.
“The system is still not perfect and more work still needs to be done. RoadPeace is calling for all causing death by driving charges to qualify as homicide offences and greater priority to be allocated to investigating and prosecuting criminal road deaths, both things that Thompsons supports. Road crime must be treated as real crime.”
The full report can be read on the RoadPeace website.
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