Drivers who kill while speeding, racing, using their phone, or under the influence could face life in prison, up from the current maximum term of 14 years.
Killer drivers could face life in prison under plans being considered by the UK government.
The crime of causing death by dangerous driving currently carries a maximum tariff of 14 years in prison, and many offenders only serve half their sentence.
In 2015 the average sentence given for causing death by dangerous driving, and the lesser offence of causing death by careless driving, was less than four years. 122 people were convicted on the dangerous driving charge.
The proposed change would put both crimes on the same level as manslaughter.
“Dangerous driving” typically covers drivers who kill while speeding excessively, street racing, or using their phone. The change would also cover drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said: “Killer drivers ruin lives. Their actions cause immeasurable pain to families, who must endure tragic, unnecessary losses. While it is impossible to compensate for the death of a loved one, we are determined to make sure the punishment fits the crime.”
“This is a vindication of our efforts, and those of victims’ families,” said Gary Rae of road safety charity Brake. “For too long, the justice system has treated them as second class citizens.
“We do remain concerned that the charge of ‘careless’ driving could remain. Some of the strongest feedback we have received from the families we work with, is that there is nothing careless about taking someone else’s life.”
Speaking to the BBC, attorney Stephen Oldham, who specializes in representing motoring offenders, pointed put that life sentences are usually only given to people who have “gone out of their way” to commit a serious crime. “That’s often the element that’s missing with the driving case,” he said.
A new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, with a maximum sentence of three years, has also been proposed.
A consultation process will conclude in February, after which the process of making the change law can begin.