Last week's headlines about a Premiership footballer allegedly trashing a colleague's Mercedes, while already banned for drink driving and, therefore, also driving while not insured, hardly present an ideal role model.
Last week's headlines about a Premiership footballer allegedly trashing a colleague's Mercedes, while already banned for drink driving and, therefore, also driving while not insured, hardly present an ideal role model. Mercifully, nobody was injured or killed.
That contrasts starkly with the case of a 21-year-old constituent of mine who, 16 months ago, lost her life at the hands of a young barman in Hove who was driving illegally. A second girl was killed and a third maimed for life. The barman was unharmed, save for the five-and-a-half-year sentence he is serving.
He'd never taken a driving test. The car had no tax. He was not insured and had been driving at more than 60mph in a 30mph zone, with almost double the alcohol limit inside him. He will be eligible to apply for early release in January 2006 if he behaves.
My constituents have lost a daughter. They challenged the apparent leniency of the sentence, but without success. They have mounted a vigorous campaign to change the law to bring about a separate penalty category for unentitled drivers who maim or kill. It is estimated that there are 1.25 million uninsured drivers and 1.75 million driving without tax. Statistically, they are nine times more likely to be involved in accidents and 10 times more likely to have driving convictions. There are 6,300 casualties a year due to crashes involving an unlicenced driver, and about 900 of these are killed or seriously injured.
Young men, usually newly qualified, are in the high-risk category. Disgracefully, some of them are being egged on by less-responsible motoring publications and websites to skip the insurance and use the money saved to soup up their engines.
A number of changes to the law have taken place. The last Conservative government passed the Road Traffic Act (New Drivers) in 1995, which revokes the licence of a new driver who accumulates six penalty points within two years of passing a test.
The DVLA is merging its database with the motor insurance industry to improve the pursuit of uninsured drivers. The Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill seeks to strengthen police powers to confiscate vehicles driven without insurance.
Proposals to add an offence of causing death or serious injury by negligent driving, to beef up the two-year maximum penalty currently available for dangerous driving, were not taken up by the Government, although it made sympathetic noises.
It is time for the law to be changed to send a clear message to those who think that driving a car is a right without responsibilities.
The writer is the Conservative MP for East Worthing and ShorehamReuse content