Careless Drivers Who Kill

AA response to new laws

15 August 2008

The introduction on 18 August of severe punishment for drivers who cause death by careless driving or by driving while unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured sends a clear message to wayward drivers: pay attention or go to jail, says the AA.

The 'Don't drive distracted' announcement from Justice Secretary Jack Straw highlights a range of new careless driving laws designed to allow courts to imprison drivers who cause death because they were not paying due care and attention to the road or to other road users.

The courts will also consider 'avoidable distractions' when sentencing motorists, including use of mobile phones, eating and drinking and applying make-up while driving.

Both drivers and the public in general have long struggled to understand why courts have appeared not to take into account a death in a road accident, except where it was caused by excessively bad driving.

Now people whose carelessness causes road death will face the near certainty of a prison sentence, as will those who were driving without insurance or a licence when involved in a fatal collision.

AA comment

Andrew Howard, AA Head of Road Safety warns: "Drivers need to remember that this does not just apply to 'others', people they read about in the paper, who are careless. It could also apply to them. While many will welcome killer drivers going to jail, we all have to remember that we are just one little slip of attention away from being there ourselves.

"These new laws are the latest in the history of Britain's attempt to handle the issue of people who kill other people while driving. Many other systems have been welcomed, but not satisfied everyone. Only time will tell if we have got it right with this new law."

The AA also expects these new laws to be widely welcomed by the insurance industry – many insurers significantly increase premiums, or refuse cover, for drivers who are convicted of careless driving, including convictions linked to the use of hand-held mobile telephones.

Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, says: "Using a hand-held mobile telephone while driving, already attracts a fixed penalty of £60 and three penalty points. However, this offence often also attracts a careless driving penalty – whether the driver is involved in an accident or not. And in the event of an accident, particularly if someone is killed or seriously injured, police will routinely check mobile telephone records to see whether use of the phone was a contributory cause of the accident.

"Insurers recognise that such penalties lead to sometimes significant insurance claims and will either refuse to insure convicted drivers or significantly increase the premium they pay."

In a survey of insurers on its panel, AA Insurance discovered that half would refuse to quote for a driver with a CU80 (hand-held mobile phone) offence and a DC10 (careless driving) offence while those that did increased premiums by up to 50 per cent.

Simon Douglas points out: "That premium increase will remain for three years, significantly adding to the cost of the penalty.

"Eight people die on our roads each day and drivers who have been convicted of causing death through careless driving can expect to find it very difficult and expensive to obtain car insurance after they have served their sentence.

"No telephone call is ever worth the risk of causing death or injury. Switch the phone off when you are driving or put it on silent and collect calls at the next service area. And if you make a call to someone who is obviously driving, hang up immediately."

AA Public Affairs


15 August 2008