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Who's to blame in crashes between cyclists and motorists?

Chris Peck's picture
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Columnists in the tabloids - and sometimes the quality press as well - often blame cyclists for crashes with motor vehicles. Figures obtained from the Department for Transport reveal that cyclists - especially adults - generally aren't to blame and, in fact, more often the driver is.
A graph showing who is to blame - cyclist or driver?
A graph showing who is to blame - cyclist or driver?

At CTC we're constantly being asked to go on TV or radio to be the punch bag for someone's anti-cycling rant.

One of the recurring issues in amongst the you-don't-pay-road-tax type drivel is the suggestion that cyclists are themselves to blame for crashes. Happily, we now have some data which we can use to refute such wild speculation.

These figures come from a major research project into cycle safety, which examined which road user was deemed by the police to be at fault in the crash. In many cases, the police don't have a perfect understanding of what happened. Nonetheless, they often give an opinion as to whom they feel is to blame.

The graph above shows that in the majority of all incidents where cyclists were killed, the driver was held to be solely to blame. This is not the case amongst cyclists under the age of 25 - particularly with regard to children. However, for adults aged 25-39 52% of deaths were deemed to be solely the fault of the driver, while in a further 17%, both the cyclist and the driver had faults attributed to them.

In the case of deaths of cyclists between 40-54, the drivers' share is even higher: 70% drivers alone, 8% jointly at fault and only 23% the sole fault of the cyclist.

When it comes to injuries, rather than deaths, the relationship is even more skewed, with responsibility for the vast majority of crashes laid at the drivers' door.

So next time you hear someone blaming cyclists for their own injuries, you can respond that 80% of all injuries to 25+ cyclists are, according to the police officer recording the incident, either solely or partly the responsibility of the driver.

Put another way, only one in five injuries to a 25-year-old (or older) cyclist is deemed to be his or her fault alone.

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Full data set from TRL49 KB
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