WHILE most of us are happily unwrapping our presents around the tree on Christmas Day, two figures will shed tears standing over a plot at Taunton Deane Crematorium.

It will be the sixth year that Jane Hofmeister, accompanied by her son, Ben, 21, has made the pilgrimage to her daughter Amy’s grave – something she will do for the rest of her life.

Amy was killed at the tender age of 13 as she cycled along Blackbrook Way, Taunton, on June 15, 2011.

She was hit by a car driven by Leonard Jones, who was racing his then girlfriend Leanne Burnell.

Jones admitted causing Amy’s death by dangerous driving and was jailed for seven years, while Burnell, who denied the charge, was found guilty at a trial and sent down for three and a half years.

They have both since been freed, having served half of their sentences.

Mrs Hofmeister believes those sentences are derisory, for she is serving “a life sentence for which there’s no reduction”.

The maximum sentence for dangerous and careless drivers who kill is 14 years and Mrs Hofmeister welcomes Government plans to increase it to a life tariff.

Dangerous drivers causing death by speeding, street racing or while on a mobile phone are among those now facing the same sentences as those charged with manslaughter.

Offenders who cause death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs could also be handed life sentences.

“I absolutely welcome that,” said Mrs Hofmeister. “I hope it gets pushed through Parliament quickly and I only wish the new sentencing had been around at the time of Amy’s death.

“Myself and my family received life sentences for which there’s no reduction when Amy was killed.

“It doesn’t get any easier for me. I haven’t moved on from that pain and emotion, there’s no healing. I carry it every single day and it gets worse.

“Every happy occasion that happens with my family, like someone getting married or having a baby, isn’t joyful any more – there’s always that sadness that Amy isn’t there to share that with us.

Mrs Hofmeister, who set up the charity Think Amy to encourage people to drive responsibly and legally, added: “It’s like Groundhog Day for me. Every time I retell Amy’s story I relive it.

“The deterrent needs to be there because people are choosing to drive dangerously. When things go wrong, they’ve created it.

“It could have been preventable. It needs to attract a high sentence.

“Death by dangerous driving needs to be taken seriously.”

The Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Liz Truss has praised Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow’s campaigning for tougher sentences for killer drivers.

She added: “Nothing can compensate for the death of a loved one, but the Government wants to make sure the punishment fits the crime.

“The message is clear – if you drive dangerously and kill you could face a life sentence.”

A consultation on the plans has now been launched by ministers, and the new laws could be passed by 2018.

The proposals include increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life, increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life, creating a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving with a maximum sentence of three years and increasing minimum driving bans for those convicted of causing death.

Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said: “Killer drivers ruin lives. Their actions cause immeasurable pain to families, who must endure tragic, unnecessary losses.

“While impossible to compensate for the death of a loved one, we are determined to make sure the punishment fits the crime.”

The number of people killed or injured on Somerset’s roads fell by 10 per cent last year.

But there were still 1,455 fatal, serious or slight injury casualties in the county in 2015, compared to 1,623 casualties in 2014.

There were also fewer deaths with the number of fatalities dropping by a third from 33 to 22, although the number of serious injuries rose slightly from 185 to 188.

The figures currently available for the first half of 2016 are also positive, showing a seven per cent reduction in the number of fatally or seriously injured casualties compared to the first half of 2015.

Until the end of June 2016, there were 13 fatalities, 68 serious and 601 slight injury casualties.

Cllr David Fothergill, Somerset County Council’s cabinet member responsible for road safety, said: “We’re committed to doing everything we can to keep our roads safe and I’m pleased to see these latest figures going in the right direction, although I fully recognise that every death or injury is a terrible tragedy.

“However, the annual casualty review is not just about the headline figures, it also contains a lot of detail to help us understand current issues and trends so we can proactively address them.

“This information is vital to help us target our resources in the right places.”