On Monday a family paid tribute to a mother killed in a collision after an HGV driver completed an overtaking manoeuvre in icy conditions, lost control of his vehicle and skidded across the road.
The lorry collided head-on with a car travelling in the opposite direction on the A1 in Northumberland in December 2014 and driver Lisa Wood, 49, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Colin Blandford was found not guilty of causing death by dangerous driving, but he admitted causing death by careless driving and this week was handed a 12-month driving ban and a 12 month community order to carry out 90 hours of unpaid work.
Wood’s family were understandably shocked by the lack of a custodial sentence and so it’s probably worth revisiting CPS guidance on charging offences.
The clear difference between death by dangerous driving and death by careless driving is the standard of driving.
The offence of causing death by dangerous driving is committed under section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA 1988) when the suspect’s driving is a cause or factor in the death of another person and the driving was dangerous.
Dangerous is defined in section 2A of the RTA 1988: the standard of driving falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.
The offence carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.
In the offence of causing death by careless driving, the definition is linked to the provisions of section 3ZA of the RTA 1988.
This stipulates that a person is to be regarded as driving without due care and attention if the way he or she drives falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.
The maximum penalty is five years imprisonment with a mandatory minimum 12 months disqualification, or three to 11 points where special reasons are found not to disqualify.
So, the difference between the two is that with dangerous driving the standard must fall far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, whereas in death by careless driving, the standard of driving must merely fall below what would be expected of the driver.
However, it is doubtful any of this provides comfort to families of those killed on the roads and questioning the subsequent sentencing.
However, MP Greg Mullholland is currently campaigning to have careless driving removed as a charge and is demanding tougher sentences.
Only last month, he was applying pressure to Justice Secretary Michael Gove’s department to explain why, despite raised expectations, nothing as yet has been done on this controversial and emotional subject.
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