Daily Mail 26th October 2006
Stiffer punishments for drivers promised as cyclist deaths soar
Motorists who kill cyclists could face jail in an attempt to ensure dangerous drivers face tougher punishment.
Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald is to tell prosecutors to charge more motorists who cause fatalities with dangerous driving--which has a penalty of prison--instead of careless driving, for which offenders can only be fined.
He also wants the Crown Prosecution Service to make full use of laws coming into effect next year that will introduce an offence of causing death by careless driving.
It will carry a maximum penalty of five years in jail. Mr Macdonald's comments came as new figures from Transport for London revealed a sharp rise in the number of cycling fatalities. There were 21 deaths last year, up from eight in 2004.
The accidents have prompted increased concern about the lack of awareness displayed by some drivers and demands for stiffer punishments for those who kill on the roads.
Mr Macdonald said he believed the public were now less tolerant of motorists who caused death or injury.
"Society's view of drivers who behave carelessly or dangerously has toughened up and, in my view, prosecutors need to toughen up too and so do sentences," he said.
Mr Macdonald said although a review of prosecution policy towards drivers who kill had still to be completed, it would result in a more robust approach.
This would apply to drivers who kill pedestrians, other motorists or cyclists but he acknowledged there were specific concerns about the number of cycling fatalities.
He said he had personally known three cyclists who had died in collisions with vehicles.
"If you are driving at 40mph in a 30 limit and you go within a few inches of a cyclist that is dangerous in my opinion and we should prosecute accordingly," he said.
Mr Macdonald said the new Road Safety Bill had created the new offence of causing death by careless driving.
Although the actual sentences imposed for drivers convicted of it would be a matter for the courts, he said prosecutors would be determined to spell out where a driver was particularly negligent and why they deserved a custodial sentence.
London's cyclists have been hit by a spate of deaths and serious injuries in recent months.
Amateur bicycle racer Patrick Goodacre, 28, is in a critical condition in hospital after a collision with a car in Richmond Park.
Fatalities this month alone include Chelsea FC events manager Victoria Buchanan, 28, who was struck by a lorry at traffic lights in Fulham Road, and a woman who was killed in a collision with a Smart car in Talgarth Road, Hammersmith.
Also among this year's deaths are Naqibullah Aman, 25; Wendy Gay, 42; Andrew Rawling, 38; Patricia Mcmillan, 32; Darren Hughes, 28, and Charlotte Morse, 27.
At least one cyclist was killed or seriously injured every day last year, with 372 casualties.
TfL refused to publish precise data for this year but early indications are of another year-on-year increase as more commuters take to two wheels.
TfL admits the high casualty rate among cyclists has cast a shadow over a 45 per cent reduction in all road casualties in the past decade.
The Mayor of London has ordered TfL to halve the number of cyclists killed and seriously injured in the capital by 2010.
In 2003, 19 cyclists were killed on London's roads. Before that figures were recorded in financial years - there were 19 deaths in 2001/2 and 14 in 2000/1.
The London Assembly Green Party said that of the 87 deaths between 1999 and May 2004, 49 involved a collision with a lorry.
These were most likely to happen during the morning rush hour and at junctions and crossings.
More than half involved vehicles turning left when either the cyclist or lorry--or both--was stationary at traffic lights.
Green Assembly member Jenny Jones, the Mayor's road safety adviser, said lorry drivers had to learn to take responsibility for 'vulnerable' cyclists.
TfL said: "We will continue to work to improve road safety for all users."