Column: dangerous driving

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 24th July:

Our community has been deeply affected by dangerous driving, speeding and anti-social behaviour on our roads.

Last week, I held a virtual public meeting on this issue. Residents voiced their anger and frustration at the excessive speeding on the Dearne Valley Parkway, the noise pollution from revving engines and the racers who meet up at Cortonwood and Birdwell.

It was clear from the points raised during the meeting that these problems are not only worse during the summer months, but also worse at weekends and at night. They have had a significant impact on the sleep, mental health and wellbeing of local residents, impacting how they go about their day-to-day lives.

We need action now to make our roads safer.

I have written to South Yorkshire Police as well as Barnsley Council and the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner to voice the concerns of constituents. Speeding on the bypass and racing on public roads is dangerous. It not only endangers the lives of fellow motorists but also pedestrians and other members of our community.

Two years ago, Jacqueline Wileman, a mother-of-two living in Brierley, was  killed when she was struck by a stolen lorry. The men convicted of causing her death were only given sentences of between 10-13 years in prison. They will be eligible for parole after completing only half that time.

Alongside Jackie’s brother, Johnny Wood, I have been campaigning to change the law and get Jackie justice. We met with the then Justice Minister to secure a commitment that sentencing guidelines would be changed. However, following that meeting the Government have done very little to follow through on their promise to review sentencing guidelines.

On Tuesday, I co-sponsored a Bill put forward by the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, that will increase the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving. I firmly believe that tougher sentences dissuade people from taking unnecessary risks while driving.

The sentences handed down at the moment often do not reflect the devastation caused by these crimes. Increasing maximum prison sentences will properly punish those who commit them.

We need a justice system that recognises the life sentences given to families who have lost loved ones.

Local residents should not have to fear walking around their neighbourhood or driving down to the shops.

I will continue to hold the Government to account on the issue of road safety and fight for measures that will protect the wellbeing of road-users and members of our community.