The majority of British drivers want much harsher punishments for drivers who cause a fatal crash, according to a study by Brake.
91 per cent of those surveyed said drivers on drink or drugs who kill when behind the wheel of car should be charged with manslaughter, which carries a potential life sentence.
Currently a driver can be charged with ‘causing death by dangerous driving’ or ‘causing death by careless driving’ when under the influence of drink or drugs, both of which can result in a sentence between 26 weeks and 14 years.
66 per cent of drivers, meanwhile, said drivers who kill while at the wheel should be jailed for a minimum of ten years, while 84 per cent of drivers who kill while breaking the law should be charged with dangerous driving as opposed to careless driving.
Just 2.9 per cent of respondents felt a fine was enough for a driver who kills someone while driving, compared with 19.8 per cent who said life imprisonment was the right punishment. The highest portion of drivers said the punishment should be 15 years plus, with 28.6 per cent of votes.
The campaign is being backed by a number of bereaved families, including those of Joseph Brown-Lartey. Dawn and Ian Brown-Lartey lost their child after he drove through a red light at more than 80mph. Joseph’s car, which was cut in half by the collision, is being put on display outside the House of Commons to raise awareness.
Joseph’s parents said: “We will never get over the loss of our beautiful son Joseph, who had his whole life ahead of him. Hearing that his killer will serve half of a six-year sentence was a further slap in the face to us and our family.
“The law needs to change so that sentences for causing death by dangerous driving reflect the crime. We can’t bring Joseph back, but what we can do is campaign in his name to stop other families going through what we are.
“Joseph’s car was split in two. The emergency services said it was the worst road crash they had ever seen. We want people to see that devastation first hand in the hope of educating young drivers but also to hit home with the government the importance of our campaign.”
Brake director of communications and campaigns Gary Rae added: “There are too many families, like the Brown-Lartey’s, who suffer the double trauma of losing a loved one in a sudden and violent way, and then witness the judicial system turning its back on them.
“That’s why we’re launching our Roads to Justice campaign, which calls on government to get tough on criminal drivers who kill or seriously injure others. We believe the public are behind us, judging from our survey results.
“People we work with tell us they are left feeling betrayed by the use of inappropriately-termed charges and lenient sentences. Drivers who kill while taking illegal risks are too often labelled ‘careless’ in the eyes of the law, and then given insultingly low sentences when their actions can only be described as dangerous and destructive.”
176 people were charged with causing death by dangerous driving and 205 were charged with causing death by careless driving in 2014, according to official figures.
Is handing out harsher punishments the key to making roads safer or should there be a focus on improving driver education and the impact breaking the law can have on other road users and their families and friends to prevent it in the first place?