THE families of local people killed by dangerous drivers have welcomed government moves to increase maximum available sentences to life in prison.

Margaret and Geoffrey Willis’ 29-year-old son Gareth was killed when a speeding driver hit his motorbike in Cleggs Lane, Little Hulton in 1999.

Anthony Wynne was going so fast that his car took off as it went over a bridge and smashed into the bike, catapulting Gareth into a field and leaving his seven-year-old son, Joseph, who was riding pillion, unconscious in the road.

Wynne, who had no licence and fled the scene, admitted causing death by dangerous driving but his case sparked outrage when he was sentenced to just 30 months in prison.

This was later increased to three years and six months but Gareth’s mum, Margaret says they never got justice and have been living a life sentence themselves ever since.

“It is deep in you and it will never go away,” she said.

The Government has now announced that legislation to introduce life sentences for drivers who kill while speeding, racing or using mobile phones will be brought in next year.

At the moment the maximum sentence available to judges is just 14 years, which, for years, campaigners have said is too low.

There will also be tougher penalties of up to life in prison for careless drivers who kill whilst under the influence of drink or drugs.

And there will be a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.

The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC MP said: “Punishments must fit the crime but too often families tell us this isn’t the case with killer drivers."

“So, we will bring forward legislation early next year to introduce life sentences for dangerous drivers who kill on our roads, and ensure they feel the full force of the law.”

Gary Howarth was sentenced to just five years in jail for causing six-year-old Tracy Kennedy's death by dangerous driving.

Tracy was killed in a hit-and-run as she played near her Farnworth home in 1994, and her family were even more devastated when Howarth was released from jail just months later and went onto commit yet more driving offences.

Tracy's younger sister Sonia welcomed the move for tougher sentences.

"I am pleased that it has been recognised because it is something that has been swept under the rug for too long," she said.

"If someone ends up killing someone through dangerous driving we need to regard it as seriously as if they had shot or stabbed someone."

But she added that she hopes longer sentences will be accompanied by better rehabilitation for offenders whilst inside so they don't repeat their behaviour.

Margaret Willis said she supported tougher sentences “150 percent” adding that she hopes it will bring justice for families in the future which she says she was denied.

“We are still in shock, even though it is 20 years ago that Gareth died now. It never goes away,” she said.

“There are too many idiots on the road. I hope that families like us who suffer the consequences get justice.”

Former MP Dr Brian Iddon took up the Willis’ cause and that of other bereaved families who had to endure what were regarded as lenient sentences, given to killers.

“I dealt with some very tragic cases during my time, I was in tears sometimes after meeting constituents,” said Dr Iddon.

For years he campaigned on road safety and to have driving penalties increased and welcomed the latest government announcement. But he cautioned that, whilst life sentences may be available in future, it is up to judges to use them.

“The court procedures are wrong. I don’t know why they don’t impose the maximum sentences already available to them now,” he said.

“The sentence of manslaughter is also available but the Crown Prosecution Service, for some reason, is very reluctant to use it in these kind of cases.”

Road safety charity Brake also welcomed the move to increase sentences.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for the organisation said: “Crash victims have waited years for this announcement.”

Road crime is real crime and it is high-time that the Government, and the law, recognised this.

“Years of Government inaction have added to the suffering of road victims who have not been delivered the justice they, and their loved ones, deserve.

“The Government must now implement these tougher sentences as first priority.

“Driving is a privilege not a right and yet our flawed legal system continues to allow convicted dangerous drivers on the roads where they can endanger others.

“We all want safer roads but we will only achieve this if the law treats road crime with the seriousness it deserves.”