causing serious injury by careless driving

New Motoring Offence of Causing Serious Injury by Careless Driving

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – increasing sentences for road traffic offences:

In September 2020, the Government produced a White Paper.  The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, currently going through Parliament, will make amendments to existing legislation, increasing maximum penalties for causing death by careless driving under the influence of drink or drugs and causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years’ to life imprisonment.

In addition to the punitive element of the sentence, ancillary disqualification periods will increase from 2 years to 5 years for those convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and also those convicted of causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs.

A further proposal was that a maximum sentence of 14 years should be imposed where a driver fails to stop or report the incident to the Police where a driver knows or should have reasonably known that death or serious injury occurred or might have occurred.

 

The Bill which will create a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.

The standard of driving will be a key determining factor in sentencing for this new offence.  Currently, the offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, provides that the standard of driving must fall far below that expected of a competent and careful driver, whereas the element of careless places the driving simply below the standard and encompasses a huge range of incidents, including cases of e.g. accidentally pressing the accelerator instead of the brake pedal and causing serious injury to a third party as a consequence.  The proposed sentence for this new offence provides a maximum 2 years imprisonment.

 

Proposed new disqualification periods:

Additional increases in penalties will be imposed, following enactment. The new legislation will provide that the offences of causing death by dangerous driving under section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA), and of causing death by careless driving (see S3A RTA), along with the other offences specified in section 34(4)(a), attract a higher minimum period of disqualification – currently two years. The full list of offences is as follows:

  • manslaughter, or in Scotland culpable homicide
  • an offence under section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (causing death by dangerous driving)
  • an offence under section 1A of that Act (causing serious injury by dangerous driving)
  • an offence under section 3ZC of that Act (causing death by driving: disqualified drivers)
  • an offence under section 3ZD of that Act (causing serious injury by driving: disqualified drivers)
  • an offence under section 3A of that Act (causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs)

The minimum period of two years is also triggered, with certain exceptions, by a person on whom more than one disqualification for a fixed period of 56 days or more has been imposed within the three years immediately preceding the commission of the offence. See S34(4)(b).

The minimum period of two years currently, will increase to three years in the case of repeat convictions for any combination of the offences under the RTA listed in S34(3) within ten years of each other, which include causing death by careless driving when under the influence but not causing death by dangerous driving. The full list of repeat offences is as follows:

  • section 3A (causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs)
  • section 4(1) (driving or attempting to drive while unfit)
  • section 5(1)(a) (driving or attempting to drive with excess alcohol)
  • section 5A(1)(a) and (2) (driving or attempting to drive with concentration of specified controlled drug above specified limit
  • section 7(6) (failing to provide a specimen) where that is an offence involving obligatory disqualification
  • section 7A(6) (failing to allow a specimen to be subjected to laboratory test) where that is an offence involving obligatory disqualification

 

The intention behind the proposed measures is to:

  • increase the minimum disqualification period for a stand-alone offence of causing death by dangerous driving, and for a stand-alone offence of causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, from 2 to 5 years
  • increase the minimum period for repeat offences consisting solely of causing death by careless driving when under the influence from 3 to 6 years

These measures will not alter the existing discretion under section 34(1) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 on the court, to order disqualification for a period above the minimum or, where there are special reasons for doing so, to disqualify for less than the minimum period, or make no order for disqualification at all.

 

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