Drivers who go 30mph over the limit to face jail

Motorists who break the speed limit by more than 30mph could face jail under plans to introduce tougher sentences for serious traffic offenders.

The idea is among the options under discussion in a review of penalties for motoring offences. The review is being run by the Home Office in conjunction with the Department of Transport. The maximum penalty fora speeding motorist is currently a fine, sometimes accompanied in serious cases by the removal of his licence.

A Home Office spokeswoman said yesterday that the review of road safety strategy was looking at ways of differentiating between serious offences and minor infractions. "We want to strengthen the sentences," she said.

"We are looking at increasing the penalties and making them more appropriate to the scale of the offence."

The review will also look at longer jail sentences for people who cause death by reckless or dangerous driving. Parents of children killed by motorists have protested that the drivers are often given only short prison sentences.

Roads campaigners have argued that tougher penalties will deter motorists from breaking the speed limits.

Ministers hope the measures will help to cut the number of deaths on the roads. In 1998, 3,421 people were killed in traffic accidents and, though the figure was the lowest since records began in 1926, the Government is determined to bring it down still further. While the Home Office is considering changes to sentencing, theDepartment of Transport is looking at other road safety measures.

Among the proposals under consideration is a reduction in the speed limit to 20mph in some areas, particularly rural villages. Local authorities already have the power to impose 20mph speed limits in front of schools or playgrounds for safety reasons.

The Government may also decide to encourage the placing of more speed humps in urban areas. The review was announced last month by Tony Blair, who said it was unacceptable that 15 children were seriously and sometimes fatally injured on Britain's roads every day.

The Government has proposed that a new Green Cross Code should be introduced to the national curriculum to teach primary school pupils basic road safety. Persistent drink-drivers could face an automatic two-year ban, and fines for careless driving could be doubled to a maximum of £5,000.

A strategy document - Tomorrow's Roads: Safer for Everyone - spells out a range of other possible changes, including legislation against mobile phone use while driving.

Safety campaigners are not convinced, though, that the Government will go far enough. They want a blanket cut in the speed limit to 20mph in all built-up areas.