Author Bio ▼

Dr Karen McDonnell is head of RoSPA Scotland & Occupational Health and Safety Policy Adviser. She is also the immediate past president of IOSH.
November 12, 2020

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Driver safety

Why RoSPA supports a life sentence for dangerous driving

Dr Karen McDonnell, OSH Policy Adviser at RoSPA, explains why seeking to influence policy and legislative change is one of many routes taken by RoSPA to meet its vision of life free from serious accidental injury.

car accidentWe’re quite clear that accidents don’t have to happen, and as road safety champions of long years standing we proactively work with our National Road Safety Committee to affect lasting change.

The conversations we have and facilitate can change road safety language, and sometimes the rules of the roads, such as a ban on handheld mobile phones and the compulsory wearing of seatbelts.

For those who have experienced or who have had loved ones in a life-changing crash, the sentence lasts a life time. Across the globe, 3,900 people are killed on the roads every day and many of these are killed by dangerous drivers: those able or likely to cause harm or injury.

At RoSPA we believe that freedom from harm is something that as a society we should be reaching for.

In 2017, when drafting a response to the Ministry of Justice consultation paper Driving Offences and Penalties Relating to Causing Death or Serious Injury, and considering the impact of loss of life linked to offences like speeding or using a mobile phone while driving, we expressed support for increased sentences as a component of a range of interventions designed to improve road safety.

We stated in our response: “The main justification for increasing the penalty for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life in prison would be to provide a stronger sense of fairness and justice for the bereaved families. It would also send a clear message that our society regards death caused by dangerous drivers as seriously as manslaughter.”

It is expected that UK law will now be updated to introduce life sentences from early 2021.

As with the proposal to introduce a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, stronger and more consistent enforcement and driver education of poor driving (such as close following, speeding, using a mobile phone) before it causes a crash would help to deter bad driving and improve road safety.

Three years on we’re reiterating this message, doing so through a conversation between professionals as part of our working day.

We should all stop to think about the very long years experienced by families who have lost loved ones, and are living their life sentence every day.

Driver safety webinars

Be Part of SHP Webinar WednesdaysHear Karen speak on a panel debate, ‘Understanding and influencing drivers’ attitudes and behaviour to reduce risk sponsored’, part of SHP’s Webinar Wednesday series at, which takes place at 14:00 on Wednesday 25 November.

Prior to that, at 11:00 Wednesday 25 November, learn about ‘Managing work-related road risks: responsibilities, policies & mistakes’.

Click here to sign up for either of these sessions, or view the rest of the Webinar Wednesday programme.

Driving for Better Safety - Free eBook download

With employees who drive for business more likely to be killed at work than deep sea divers or coal miners, driver safety is a vital business consideration.

Download this eBook from Driving for Better Business and SHP to cover:

  • The danger of the roads;
  • Comparing road safety in the UK to the rest of Europe;
  • Decreasing risk: Avoiding accidents;
  • Road safety best practice;
  • What is fleet risk?
  • Managing work-related road safety.
Driver Safety eBook cover

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