Motorists who kill while avoidably distracted at the wheel will face prison under new road safety laws which came into force on 18 August 2008.
Section 20 of the Road Safety Act 2006 (RSA) creates a new offence of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, which covers distractions that can lead to accidents and carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. A distraction can be anything which takes a driver’s attention away from the road and which a court rules to have been an avoidable distraction. The definition includes smoking whilst driving, using a mobile phone (whether hands-free or not), listening to music, talking to fellow passengers, drinking, eating, using technological aids and personal grooming.
Section 21 of the RSA creates a new offence of causing death by driving whilst unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured and this carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.
Prior to the changes in the law, the maximum sentence for those convicted of causing death by careless, uninsured or unlicensed driving was a maximum £5,000 fine and penalty points on the driver’s licence.
Employers with employees who drive on company business are strongly advised to make employees aware of the changes in the law and to update their road safety policies to include a warning not to contravene the latest Highway Code.
See the Ministry of Justice Press Release at