Sentencing Guidelines updated with tougher maximum penalties for deaths caused by dangerous or negligent driving caused by alcohol or drugs
Drivers who kill face life imprisonment under new rules that take effect this week.
The previous penal provisions provided for a maximum sentence of 14 years.
The changes result from reforms to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said: “Too many lives have been lost and families have been devastated to reckless behavior behind the wheel.
“We changed the law so that those responsible now face the possibility of life behind bars.”
The reforms will also create a new offense of serious injury caused by careless driving, meaning those who cause long-term or permanent injuries will also face stiffer penalties.
The move was welcomed by motoring associations, who said it sent a strong message.
Nicholas Lyes, the RAC’s head of road transport policy, said: “People have been crystal clear in saying they support tougher penalties for those who cause death through dangerous driving.
“While it’s frustrating that it’s taken so long for the law change to come into force – five years in total – we hope a strong message will now be sent out to all who drive recklessly that there’s a very real chance that they end up behind bars for life.”
The changes are part of wide-ranging updates to the PCSC law, covering everything from football bans to a new legal test that compares a police driver to a colleague with a similar level of training to stop “inappropriate driving”.
The changes will also allow judges to provide people with hearing loss with the additional assistance of sign language interpreters during jury deliberations.
Previously, only the 12 sworn jurors were allowed into deliberation rooms, meaning those with hearing loss could not attend.
Mr Raab added: “The right to be judged by your peers dates back to Magna Carta and is a cornerstone of our justice system.
“We’re changing the law to give many more deaf people the opportunity to fulfill this important civic duty.”