By Julie Townsend, Brake’s deputy chief executive
As well as campaigning to make roads safer and prevent tragedies, each day Brake provides support to the many families who suffer the horror of a road death or serious injury. These families must endure the shock, trauma and intense emotional repercussions of a sudden bereavement or injury. They must face bewildering practical matters, from organising a funeral unexpectedly, to working out how they will pay the bills, to reorganising their day-to-day lives. And very often, they must face the additional insult of injustice – a sense their loved one’s life, or their injury, is worth little in the eyes of the law.
Since we started supporting bereaved and injured road crash victims, nearly two decades ago, we have time and time again heard from these vulnerable families that they have felt let down and betrayed by our justice system, that their anguish has been compounded by inappropriately worded charges and insultingly low penalties.
We believe these families deserve justice, and we believe the crimes that lead to loss of life and terrible suffering on our roads should be treated seriously. That’s why through our Crackdown campaign we are calling for much tougher charges and penalties following road death and injury, as well as greater levels of traffic policing and higher fines for driving offences at all levels.
We don’t believe it’s right that a driver who has ended another person’s life, or caused a horrific injury, and turned a family’s world upside down, while driving on drugs, uninsured or disqualified, or speeding, should receive just a few months in jail – yet that’s not an uncommon outcome. We don’t believe it’s right that a driver who has killed or seriously injured while taking a risk and breaking the law should be deemed merely ‘careless’ in the eyes of the law – yet that is often the case. A survey by Brake and Direct Line released last week shows the public agree with us that change is needed.
Charges and penalties for drivers who kill and seriously injure need a major overhaul by the Ministry of Justice – to ensure they reflect the suffering caused and make it clear that these crimes are abhorrent and will not be tolerated. Sentencing guidelines need toughening up by the Sentencing Council – to ensure courts hand out the full range of penalties up to the maximum in the most serious cases.
It was encouraging to see this issue being debated in Parliament in January, and to hear Justice Minister Jeremy Wright agreeing to further consider the issue. We hope, for the sake of suffering road crash victims, and deterring risky law-breaking on our roads, this will lead to reform, and justice finally being done.
Read more and back the campaign:
Brake and Direct Line’s report on public opinion on charges and penalties for causing road death and injury
Overview of Brake’s calls for action on charges and penalties
Write to your MP calling for action, using Brake’s online tool