Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 65(2) May 2015


The Plus Point Game

It is a modern irony that the greater the advances in the medical and nursing care of road crash victims, the lesser the punishments given to those who caused the collisions in the first place. Put simply, if as a motorist you kill somebody, you may receive a substantial sentence. Yet should that person survive through expert intervention, you could get off quite lightly!

A "plus point" situation can therefore be identified whereby a dangerous driver's punishment is reduced simply because professionals have been able to save his or her victim's life, although that person could nevertheless face a lifetime of pain, disability, lack of employment and other disadvantages. The victim's family may also become devastated.

Thus the good work of the trauma teams able to keep road victims alive, despite such poor qualities of life, in practice benefit the guilty parties in that their sentences are shortened because they did not actually cause death. And so such skills can mask the need to reduce speeding and to prevent crashes.

Pedestrians and cyclists usually come off worst when crashes occur. Disturbingly, many of our motoring laws seem designed not to generate a sense of justice but to keep dangerous drivers out of prison and to maintain them as consumers for the vehicle and fuel industries. One solution is for criminal drivers to be additionally charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm.

In a recent example, a motorist speeding through a red light struck a teenager crossing a Croydon road. Because she did not die, he was only charged with "driving without due care and attention" and was not imprisoned. Magistrates merely banned him for four years and fined him £1,400.

Meanwhile, his victim has undergone five operations and may well need lifetime care. Had she died he might have received up to five years in jail for dangerous driving. "Why should the fortunate fact that someone survives affect the chance of the driver being disqualified?" asked the girl's distraught sisters.

In another example, a drunk driver injured a Leicester University student in a "hit and run" scenario. He was charged with "failing to stop" and "having no insurance" instead of "causing death by dangerous driving" and was jailed for a mere 21 months. He is likely to serve only half that time.  This was because his victim, a keen sportsman, did not die owing to the skilfulness of his doctors. His horrified father commented that "my son is going to be permanently disabled and will be lucky if he walks again". Thus we find that yet again the seriousness of road tragedies gets played down and that the motorists in question soon return to the roads.

Antony Porter