Fleet managers in the UK should instruct company drivers and update fleet policies and procedures in light of a new careless driving law that increases penalties for causing serious injury, advises QBE Insurance Group (QBE), a global insurer and reinsurer.
The new law, “Causing Serious Injury by Careless Driving” became effective June 28 under the Police Crime and Sentencing Act 2022 and can be adjudicated in either a Magistrates’ Court or a Crown Court.
If convicted in the Crown Court, the driver can face a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment. If convicted in the Magistrates’ Court, the driver can face a one-year sentence. In both cases, the convicted driver will also face an obligatory disqualification, according to QBE.
To be convicted of this new offence, the prosecution must prove the driver's level of driving fell below the required standard, which could be as little as a momentary lapse in concentration – an error in judgment that incur a loss of license and risk of a prison sentence.
Previously, if a motor vehicle driver caused serious injury to another person, they could be prosecuted only for the offense of “Careless Driving,” which carries a maximum sentence of a fine and a driving license assignment of three to nine penalty points. In the most serious cases of culpability and harm, the court can use its discretion to impose a driving disqualification.
According to QBE, many careless driving cases do not currently result in prosecution, particularly if no serious injury is involved. Often, the driver must take a driver education course at their own expense.
However, recent UK Highway Code amendments created a hierarchy of road users and hold responsible those who can cause the greatest harm to reduce the danger they pose to others.
“As a result, we may reasonably expect to see an increase in prosecutions under this new offence, especially where the injured party is a vulnerable road user, such as pedestrians and cyclists,” according to the QBE advisory.
Because police and/or insurer investigations of a serious injury must gather appropriate evidence, obtain statements, investigate contributory negligence and gather medical evidence, businesses should ensure they have adequate processes and policies in place that reflect these changes.
Employees who drive vehicles for work purposes should be advised of the change to the law via staff briefings or toolbox talks, QBE recommends, while also urging ongoing driver training.