UK cyclists’ organisation CTC has welcomed today’s announcement of tougher sentences for dangerous drivers.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw has said the maximum prison sentence for dangerous driving will be increased from two to five years.
But it’s unclear when the so-called Cerys’ Law – which follows a campaign by the parents of paralysed West Midlands toddler Cerys Edwards, hit by a speeding driver who served just six months in prison – will come into effect.
A note on the Ministry of Justice news release announcing the move says: “The change to sentencing will take place as soon as an appropriate legislative opportunity is identified”, which could be after next year’s General Election.
CTC’s campaigns and policy director Roger Geffen welcomed the move, but said a “serious attitude-shift towards safe driving” was needed.
“Cyclists and pedestrians are disproportionately the victims of bad driving on our roads,” he said. “As the UK’s largest representative body for cycling, it is obvious to us that there is a desperate need to review the sentences for dangerous driving, and an increase in the maximum sentence is clearly welcome.
“However, to deter bad driving we also need sanctions which better reflect the standards of the driving itself, rather than the level of injury sustained by the victim. Where there is no obvious recklessness involved, CTC would like to see a greater use of driving bans and driver retraining and retesting.
“Conversely, if a driver causes an obvious danger they should not be let off by being prosecuted merely for ‘careless’ driving.”
The proposed tougher sentences for dangerous drivers follow the introduction of two new offences in 2006, causing death by careless driving and causing death where the driver is disqualified or uninsured, which carry maximum prison terms of five and two years respectively.
Mr Straw said: “Dangerous driving can destroy lives and have a devastating impact on the families and friends of its victims. As this is such an important and personal issue to those campaigning for this change to the law, I thought it appropriate to let them know as soon as possible that we are determined to make this important change.
‘However, introducing new laws takes time and so this cannot be put on the statute book immediately. This is inevitable when amendments to primary legislation are necessary, as in this case.”
Road Safety Minister Paul Clark said: “Britain has the joint safest roads in the world but we are determined to further reduce the number of terrible tragedies which occur every year. This tough new measure will help us to achieve this goal and sends a clear message to the irresponsible few that we will not tolerate those who show a disregard for the safety of others by flouting the rules of the road.”