The UK Tries Imposing Potential Life Sentences for High Risk Driving Practices Resulting in Fatalities
Although surveys of driver attitudes reflect an increased awareness of the danger of extremely reckless driving practices like drunk driving, texting behind the wheel, and street racing, these dangerous activities continue to cause accidents. While engaging in any of these forms of driving can lead to civil liability for money damages and criminal penalties, these dangerous types of driving behavior continue to endanger lives. In an attempt to further detour motorists from recklessly endangering others, the UK has announced that drivers convicted of “looking at their mobile phones” will be exposed to a potential life sentence under proposed new sentencing guidelines according to The Telegraph.
The proposed new sentencing parameters increase the high end limit of incarceration for motorists whose dangerous driving results in a fatality from 14 years to life in prison. Media reports indicate several factors prompted the harsher sentencing for motorists whose reckless driving behavior causes fatal crashes. According to media sources, the impetus for the change was a series of children being hit by drivers who never attempted to apply their brakes because they were concentrating on the screen of their mobile phone.
The Telegraph reports that 122 people were sentenced for engaging in dangerous driving that resulted in a fatality in 2018. Another 21 people were convicted for causing a death while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the same period. Because the decision to adopt these tougher prison terms was spurred by concerns about distracted driving, cell phone-related accident deaths now can result in a life term of imprisonment in the UK just like deaths from drunk driving and street racing.
While a period of years might be required to determine if the increased exposure to a life sentence affects driving behavior, the penalties might be more effective than relatively minor fines. Many states in the U.S. impose relatively meager fines on certain types of cell phone use like texting and driving while permitting other uses, such as hands-free calling.
For example, Georgia passed a hands-free cell phone law that resulted in the Georgia Department of Public Safety issuing 32 citations and 1,000 written warnings in the 1stten days the law took affect according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Officers with the Atlanta Police Department wrote 86 citations during this same period. The high number of violations suggests that texting, handheld calling, and other forms of “hands on” cell phone use were widespread. The prevalence of violations also might indicate that motorists need more than the threat of a fine to adjust their driving behavior. However, the high numbers of initial violations also could reflect a “learning period” during which motorists had not yet modified their behavior based on a lack of understanding of the new law.
If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, our attorneys at Montlick and Associates invite you to contact us for a free case evaluation.
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