If only the Americas would follow suit...Originally Posted by The GuardianSource
Motorists who use mobile phones and tailgate other cars could be jailed under a tough new package of measures unveiled yesterday, aimed at stamping out bad habits. Drivers who kill on the roads are also more likely to face charges of manslaughter, instead of the lesser charge of death by dangerous driving, as part of plans by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Behaviour for which drivers could be jailed for dangerous driving, rather than careless driving, include using a hand-held mobile on the move, tailgating, tuning a car radio, overtaking on the inside, running a red light, or emerging from a side road into the path of another vehicle.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, said he believed public attitudes to bad driving had changed dramatically in recent years, and the CPS policy of prosecuting motorists might need to be modified as a result.
The proposals have been drawn up in the light of growing public recognition of the serious effects of poor driving, and pressure by campaigning groups on the CPS to take motoring offences, particularly those causing death, more seriously.
A consultation paper asks for views on whether a range of bad habits behind the wheel that are currently prosecuted as careless driving should be moved into the dangerous driving category, depending on factors such as speed and road conditions.
The combination of a tougher prosecution policy and changes in the law coming into effect next year under the Road Safety Act 2006 means that many more motorists who misbehave on the roads could face a possible prison sentence.
The act will create a new offence of causing death through careless driving, carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Prosecutors will also be able for the first time to charge offenders with manslaughter, which carries a maximum life sentence, and with causing death by dangerous driving, as alternatives, leaving it to the jury to decide. At present there is a disincentive to charge a driver with manslaughter because the driver walks free if prosecutors fail to satisfy the jury that there was an obvious and serious risk of death. Other alternative charges will include causing death by dangerous driving and the new offence of causing death by careless driving.
Mr Macdonald said: "Public views have moved along in recent years and we want to make sure our policies reflect public views. The test is the person standing on the pavement watching: is it, 'That's a bit silly', or 'That's really dangerous'? Do people regard as dangerous driving that [which] they would not have regarded as dangerous five or 10 years ago?"
The document, which applies to England and Wales, also asks for views on the current policy of generally not prosecuting a motorist whose driving led to the death of a close relative, providing no other people were endangered and the driver is not a continuing risk to others.
It says: "We consider that, in light of changing public attitudes to bad driving and the introduction of a new offence of causing death by careless driving, this policy requires revision. While one cannot rule out absolutely exceptional cases where prosecution would be oppressive, in our view prosecution for these offences should be the normal course."
The personal circumstances of the driver - for example, where the victim was the driver's child - would be an argument for mitigating the punishment, rather than a reason to avoid prosecution, it suggests.
It also asks for feedback on where the boundary should be between dangerous and careless driving in cases of a single misjudgment, or a momentary lapse in concentration.