You can now go to prison for a long time if you seriously injure someone while carelessly driving.
The law changed this week following campaigns to plug a gap in sentencing guidelines and here Paul Loughlin (below), partner and motoring offences specialist at Stephensons explains the thinking behind the changes.
“The consequences of dangerous and careless driving are often profound. Just one moment of madness behind the wheel can inflict a lifetime of harm and suffering.
“Until now, where injury was caused irrelevant of the extent of that injury as a result of an accident involving a standard of driving that was considered to be below that of a competent and careful driver, but not so far below that standard that it was considered to be ‘dangerous’, offenders should not have been charged with anything over and above simple careless driving – the penalty for which is a maximum of a driving ban and a fine.
“We did, however, often find inappropriate use of the more serious charge of causing serious injury by dangerous driving being laid as a consequence that could lead to offenders walking away from any penalty because the court could not be satisfied that their driving could be considered to have met the threshold of dangerous”
He went on, “The introduction of an offence of causing serious injury by careless driving has therefore been a long time in the making and should help ensure that offenders are suitably and fairly charged with specific reference to the nature of the driving and not just the outcome of the incident.
“This plugs a significant gap in the sentencing guidelines that has either meant that a simple careless driving charge or an inappropriately applied causing serious injury by dangerous driving charge were laid – often resulting in penalties that were considered to be wholly inadequate.
“The introduction of this offence and the changes applied to the sentencing guidelines for existing offences where poor driving lead to someone’s death are considered by many to be a more suitable and proportionately severe way of dealing with these offenders and underlines just how serious these offences can be and sadly often are.”