In June 2022, a new offence came into force for causing serious injury from careless driving in the UK under the police crime and sentencing act 2022 and inserted into the road traffic act. The offence closes the gap where careless driving has caused life changing injury (not death).
The offence would mean the driver would have caused serious injury without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users. In addition, offence amendments to the highway code giving a hierarchy of road users placing a duty of those that create to greatest harm.
Drivers who have even momentary lapses in concentration that lead to a serious injury may expect to be investigated and charged with this new offence.
Where a ‘vulnerable road user’ such as a pedestrian or cyclist has sustained a serious injury, this may give rise to a more severe sentence. It’s important to note the definition of serious injury under the legislation can be as little as a broken bone. The new offence is an ‘either-way offence’, meaning it can either be heard in the Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court. If convicted of causing serious injury by careless driving a driver could face the maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment if the case is heard by the Crown Court, or up to maximum of 12 months’ imprisonment if dealt with by the Magistrates’ Court.
The police investigation will involve the driver being invited to an interview under caution where not only will they be at risk of incrimination, but also potentially you as their employer. A large part of the police questioning the driver will revolve around training, policies and procedures and, crucially, the culture within the company in relation to the risks associated with driving. In essence this interview is used to explore the possibility of offence by both the driver as well as their employer.
Fleet operators must educate their drivers on this new offence, the seriousness of it, and the approach to legal representation for police interviews under caution. HR teams will also need to review organisations’ approaches around disciplinary and internal investigations where the driver is subject to a lengthy police investigation relating to an offence carrying a custodial sentence.
BFFF are currently in the process of speaking with insurance and legal contacts to find out more on how this could impact its members.
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