Another week, another horrific death by dangerous driving case is closed, with victims’ families questioning the sentence imposed.
HGV driver Tomasz Kroker is now beginning a 10-year jail term for driving into a line of slow-moving traffic on the A34 in August, killing a mother and three children and causing serious injury to another motorist.
Dash cam footage showed Kroker scrolling through music on his mobile for seven seconds before his truck smashed into the line of traffic at 50mph. According to the judge, Kroker’s attention on the road ahead had been so poor, he might as well have had his eyes closed.
Kroker pleaded guilty to four counts of causing death by dangerous driving and one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving. The maximum sentence that could be imposed for causing death by dangerous driving is 14 years, but this is rarely handed down.
In this case, Judge Maura McGowan told Reading Crown Court she hoped the publicity surrounding the case and the sentence would bring greater awareness of the consequences of using a phone for any function while at the wheel. But according to the families of the deceased and injured, 10 years is not enough.
A family statement released following the verdict states: “The sentence of 10 years in prison will not ease our pain and suffering, nor do we believe it will send a strong enough message to those who lack the self-restraint to not use their mobile phones whilst driving. Anyone using a mobile whilst driving is guilty of dangerous driving.”
Road safety charity Brake is also angry; campaigns director Gary Rae says: “A 10-year sentence, of which he will probably serve just five, doesn’t begin to do justice to the grieving families. We need action from the government now; prison sentences for criminal drivers who kill must be strengthened. We need increased penalties for illegal phone use behind the wheel and hands-free calls must also be banned. We also need more investment in road traffic policing, so drivers breaking mobile-phone laws know they will be caught and punished.”
Mobile phone use at the wheel has reached epidemic proportions. In September the RAC published a study which found that 31% of motorists had used a phone at the wheel, up from 8% in 2014. The number of drivers stating that they had sent text messages or taken photos whilst driving had also increased alarmingly.
Using a mobile phone at the wheel has been an offence since 2003. No doubt driven by the increase in motorists admitting to using their phone whilst driving, next year the government is looking to increase the penalty for the offence from 3 points and a £100 fine to 6 points and a £200 fine. Doubling the number of penalty points recognises that using a phone at the wheel is more dangerous than other offences that attract 3 points such as low level speeding and failing to comply with traffic signs, but does 6 points really reflect the true danger that being distracted by your mobile phone causes?
The RAC believe that part of the reason drivers ignore the rules on phone use is that they believe they will not be caught, and figures on the declining number of traffic police would suggest this is correct. More resources should be pushed into proper enforcement by traffic patrols and penalties need to be severe.
The Prime Minister has hinted the laws are being looked at for death by Dangerous Driving but recently a government spokesman said “Offenders involved in road accidents while using a mobile phone already face serious offences such as causing death by dangerous driving, which can carry a substantial prison term.”
However, in reality those terms are not being meted out. It seems someone really needs to look at both offences together in tandem. You start to question how many more harrowing events must occur before hints become action and we see joined up thinking.
If you require legal advice for a mobile phone offence or dangerous driving offence contact our specialist motoring solicitors on 0115 910 6239