Time for a change of accident liability

The Government has increased the fixed penalties for speeding and illegal car parking offences.

Most people who walk and cycle should welcome this as it will help to protect vulnerable road users a little more. We can only hope that enforcement is also improved. We support the use of more speed cameras and encourage the resulting income from fines to go back, in part at least, to the enforcement agencies to fund further enforcement initiatives.

Rather than being yet another method of making motorists pay more as the AA and RAC have been saying, it is as it should be, a deterrent to drivers who break the law.

What should cyclists be campaigning for on the question of road safety at the moment? One idea sent by SPOKES to the Government Ministers and their advisors a year ago, was for a change in the law which alters liability to protect the more vulnerable road user.

This means the driver of a car who hits a cyclist, pedestrian, motorcyclist or horse and rider will be in the wrong and can be prosecuted. The good news for walkers would be a cyclist who knocked over a pedestrian would also be liable for prosecution.

This is not a wild and wacky idea dreamt up by some crank. This is the law in most European countries and yet again Britain is out of step. Perhaps the time is right to step up this part of our campaign and start writing letters to Ministers and MPs. Many of us believe it will be the biggest single help after lowering road speeds to benefit road safety and reduce casualties. It will l mean all drivers will have to drive defensively, to stop driving aggressively and watch out for anyone suddenly crossing the road for example.

Last change: 18 October 2001