Killer drivers who crash while using their mobile phone could be handed life sentences under new plans in Britain. The suggestion is that dangerous drivers who kill as a result of texting, phoning or checking social media on their device should be punished in the same way that those charged with manslaughter would be.

Drivers who cause a death or deaths as a result of speeding or so-called street racing, or who take drugs or drink before getting behind the wheel could also face life in jail. Currently, the maximum sentence for these offences is 14 years.

That means that motorists who behave well while in jail are usually out within seven years. According to the latest figures available, for 2015, the average sentence for drivers who caused a death was just under four years.

Pain

Justice minister Sam Gyimah said it was only right that the maximum sentence should be raised dramatically. He said: “Killer drivers ruin lives. Their actions cause immeasurable pain to families, who must endure tragic, unnecessary losses.”

He added that while no one would suggest it was possible to compensate for the loss of a life, the punishment needed to fit the crime.

During 2015, a total of 122 people were convicted of causing death as a result of dangerous driving. Many were speeding, taking part in illegal street races or using their mobile phone. The Ministry of Justice will now consult on whether the maximum sentence should be increased.

The proposals will also look at whether a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving should be brought in, with a maximum jail term of three years, also with examining whether to increase the minimum time for driving bans.

Road safety campaigners urged ministers to go further. The RAF said that an epidemic of drivers texting, checking messages and phoning while driving needed to be stopped.