Justice system ‘failing to protect cyclists’, inquiry finds04 May 2017
The all-party parliamentary cycling group found dangerous drivers are becoming more likely to avoid bans and remain behind the wheel
The justice system ‘is failing to protect cyclists’ as dangerous drivers are increasingly likely to remain on our roads, a cross-party parliamentary cycling group has warned.
An inquiry by the group, made up of MPs and peers, found the number of driving bans issued has fallen by 62 per cent during the past decade - twice as fast as the fall in recorded road offences - and an increasing number of drivers are claiming exceptional hardship to avoid disqualification. Examples of “exceptional hardship” may include the driver losing their job and home, or being unable to care for a disabled relative.
The report, co-chaired by Labour MP Ruth Cadbury and Conservative MP Alex Chalk, says the current system is failing cyclists by “allowing dangerous and inconsiderate driving to go unchecked and letting down the victims of road crashes”.
Having considered evidence from 200 organisations and individuals, the report calls on the police to prioritise road policing, prosecute serious offences as dangerous rather than careless driving and welcome video evidence from cyclists’ helmet cameras. It notes a 39 per reduction in specialist road police in recent years.
The report provides 14 recommendations for the courts and police to address shortcomings, make roads safer and ensure those drivers who flout the law are appropriately punished.
It also highlights the need to address poor driving that, it claims, deters many people from cycling, recommending police across the country roll out a programme that mirrors the successful West Midlands road police scheme, which targeted dangerous and anti-social driving, such as overtaking cyclists too closely.
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), 21,287 cyclists were killed or injured on UK roads in 2014 (the most recent statistics available), of whom 3,401 were seriously injured and 113 were killed.
“It’s a sad testament of the state of road safety in the UK that so many people who would otherwise happily cycle short distances feel they can’t do so because they don’t trust the behaviour of other road users, and don’t believe our justice system is a decent enough deterrent to keep them safe,” said Richard Johnson, a road traffic accident specialist at Thompsons.
“It is absurd that there are drivers out there with 12-plus penalty points who have been allowed to remain behind the wheel. Thousands of people’s lives are irreparably damaged by road traffic collisions every year in this country, and yet we are seemingly becoming more complacent as a society about dealing with the reckless behaviour that leads to these injuries.
“As the election nears, we have an opportunity to demand more from political leaders. We need greater investment in road police, who must in turn feel in a position to bring those who violate road rules and laws to account. And we need a legal system that acts as a serious deterrent to those who risk the lives of others by behaving recklessly.”
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