The director of public prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, is to advise the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to charge drivers who kill cyclists with dangerous driving, instead of careless driving.

Macdonald says the new law of causing death by careless driving will carry a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. At present, killer drivers mostly get away with being charged with careless driving because the CPS more often than not consider this an easier conviction to get.

He said the public’s perception had changed and many now think that drivers who drive carelessly or dangerously should be punished more severely. He added that driving at 40mph in a 30mph zone and passing within a few inches of a cyclist is dangerous, and the driver should be prosecuted accordingly.

The number of cyclists killed on the road has risen in the past two years, with 134 deaths in 2005 and 148 last year.