Will tougher sentences discourage disqualified drivers?

If you’d been disqualified from driving, then caused someone’s death while at the wheel, what sort of stretch would you expect to do at Her Majesty’s Pleasure? Ten, 15, maybe 20 years? And what if you caused serious injury while disqualified? Five or ten years, perhaps, depending upon the severity of the accident and resulting injuries?
driver pulled over by police
Actually, as things currently stand, you’d get just two years for killing someone. And there isn’t even a specific conviction for injuring someone while banned from driving – but all that is about to change.

Tougher sentences for banned drivers

According to figures from the Ministry of Justice, around 8,200 people were convicted for driving while disqualified in 2012. Of the 16 prosecutions for causing death by driving while disqualified, unlicensed or uninsured, 13 ended in conviction. In a bid to clamp down on the problem, the government has announced that from early 2015, a disqualified driver who causes death can expect to face up to 10 years in prison. What’s more, a new offence of causing serious injury while disqualified will be introduced, carrying with it a sentence of up to four years. Chris Grayling, justice secretary, said: "I want to make our roads safer and ensure people who cause harm face tough penalties. "Disqualified drivers should not be on our roads for good reason. Those who choose to defy a ban imposed by a court and go on to destroy innocent lives must face serious consequences for the terrible impact of their actions.” Grayling also plans to review all driving offences and penalties, including offences caused by uninsured and unlicensed drivers, to guarantee there are proper punishments in place for those who flout the law and put people’s lives at risk. So just how big a problem are uninsured drivers?

Drop in uninsured drivers

The latest figures from the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) show that around 1.2 million of the 34.5 million vehicles currently being driven on the UK’s roads are being done so without any insurance cover in place – down from about 2 million in 2005. In addition, the number of uninsured driver claims the MIB has to deal with has dropped from around 37,000 in 2005 to around 25,000 in 2013. So although still relatively high, the number of uninsured drivers and vehicles on the road is in decline, which is probably down to advances in technology and tightening of legislation. For instance, police now use automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology to instantly identify uninsured vehicles and since 2005 have had the power to seize and impound uninsured vehicles.

Concerted action

The insurance industry has also been playing its part – the MIB and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) have teamed up to cross-reference one another’s data with that held on the Motor Insurance Database (MID) and the Insurance Fraud Register. The government has also introduced Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE), a law stipulating all vehicles must either be declared as being kept off the road via a Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN) or insured with at least third party cover, even if they are not being used. And if these measures have helped to bring down the number of uninsured drivers blighting the UK’s roads, it’s hoped this latest round of tougher legislation will help do the same to the number of disqualified drivers illegally getting back behind the wheel. What do you think? Will the tougher sentences deter disqualified drivers, or are they still not tough enough?

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