Tougher laws for careless drivers

Motorists who cause fatal accidents by using a mobile telephone at the wheel are to face up to five years' imprisonment under a new law which comes into force next week.

The long-awaited new offence of causing death by careless driving - designed to plug a hole in current legislation - will be brought in on Monday, the Ministry of Justice has announced.

It means that motorists who kill because they were "avoidably distracted", which could include calling or texting on a mobile phone, drinking or eating, adjusting a satellite navigation system or car stereo, applying make-up or reading a map, will face tougher penalties.

Under the new legislation, judges can impose a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment - although they also have the option of imposing a lesser community sentence, even in the medium category of seriousness.

Another new offence will come into force on Monday which penalises uninsured, disqualified or unlicensed drivers who kill, carrying up to two years' imprisonment.

About 150 motorists a year are expected to be jailed after being convicted of the death by careless driving offence, and about five a year for the "uninsured" offence. Under previous laws, the maximum punishment faced for similar crimes was a £5,000 fine and penalty points.

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