Safe Drivers and Vehicles

RhiaWeston's picture

An incomprehensible travesty of justice

Last week, an incomprehensible travesty of justice occurred in Kent. A driver who had sent and received 40 text messages whilst at the wheel and who then hit an 18-year-old cyclist on a straight stretch of road in broad daylight was cleared by a jury of causing the cyclist's death.
Daniel Squire was killed whilst training for an Ironman Triathlon

At Canterbury Crown Court on 20 March, 36-year-old Philip Sinden was cleared of causing the death of 18-year-old Daniel Squire on the A258 Dover Road on 7 September 2013.

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RhiaWeston's picture

We need road crash victims' rights

The insensitive treatment of Michael Mason's grieving family by the Metropolitan Police is representative of the experience of many road crash victims. CTC's Rhia Weston explains the need for the Victims Bill to enshrine the rights of those victimised by road crime.
Roger Geffen at Michael Mason vigil. Photo by Joe Dunckley

The Metropolitan Police’s very public to-ing and fro-ing in the Michael Mason case has appalled many people, so much so that the fundraising appeal launched by the Cyclists’ Defence Fund to start a private prosecution of the driver involved received over £6,000 in the 24 hours and has now reached £21,000

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Victoria Hazael's picture

Does the Driving Test need to change?

Over eight decades the Driving Test has undergone many changes but, as we know from bitter experience fighting for justice for cyclists at CTC, a minority of drivers do not understand how to drive safely near cyclists. That is why CTC's Victoria Hazael wants to see a few changes made to the test.
UK Driving Licence and paper copy with permission from DVLA

Eighty years ago this week, Mr Beene of Kensington, London was the first person to pass the practical driving test. Of course, the roads in the UK were very different in 1935 - there were just two million drivers, now there are 27 million. So, does the Driving Test equip motorists for driving in 2015? 

RhiaWeston's picture

Police U-turn on prosecution in Michael Mason case

Under pressure from Michael Mason's family's campaign for justice, the Metropolitan Police have backtracked on their decision not to pass the case file involving his death to the Crown Prosecution Service for review.
Michael Mason was killed cycling on Regent's Street, London
With support from the Cyclists' Defence Fund, the family of 70-year-old Michael Mason who was hit from behind by a driver on Regent Street on 25 February 2014, have been fighting for answers as to why the police did not inform the CPS of the case. Michael died on 14 March, 19 days after the incident. 
 

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RhiaWeston's picture

Victims and campaigners invited to justice manifesto launch

In the week when the Prime Minister expressed his support for the review of driving offences and penalties, victims of road crime and road safety campaigners are being invited to the House of Commons for the launch of a manifesto for better justice.
Parliament

The Government's driving offences and penalties review, announced in May 2014, is now truly under way - thanks in large measure to CTC's Road Justice campaign.

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Victoria Hazael's picture

Should children cycle on the pavement?

A police officer in Lincolnshire reportedly threatened to confiscate a four-year-old girl's bicycle because she was cycling on the pavement. CTC's Victoria Hazael explains where the law stands on children cycling on the pavement.
A four-year old girl cycling in the park

As a mum of a four-year-old who regularly cycles on the pavement, I must confess I was really shocked when I read the report in Grantham Journal, that four-year-old Sophie Lindley was stopped by Lincolnshire Police as she was cycling to school on the pavement.

Roger Geffen's picture

Lords debate lorry safety

A conference last week on cycle-lorry safety led to a useful debate in the House of Lords yesterday on the subject.
A construction lorry

The conference, held on Thursday 26 February, was organised by Transport for London’s 'Construction Logistics and Cycle Safety' (CLoCS) project and was the fourth progress event. Over 600 people attended it. 

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RhiaWeston's picture

Vigil to mark anniversary of Michael Mason’s death

To mark one year since Michael Mason was killed in a road crash in London, the campaign group Stop Killing Cyclists will hold a ride and vigil on Regent Street on Friday 13 March, with the support of the Cyclists' Defence Fund.
Michael Mason, who was killed cycling on Regent Street

Mick was hit from behind by a car on Regent Street on 25 February 2014, dying in hospital 19 days later. The ride and vigil will be held to remember Mick - and the many other people who have lost their lives on London’s roads and across the UK.

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Cherry Allan's picture

Traffic police and other enforcement agencies

More effective traffic policing is crucial for cyclists, and also helps tackle one of the biggest fears that many others have about taking up cycling in the first place - namely, bad driving...
Cyclist and police car
Headline Messages: 
  • A commitment from the police to tackle road crime plays a crucial role in protecting the public from bad driving.
  • The more traffic police there are and the more resources they have, the stronger the chance that bad drivers will be caught and brought to justice.
  • Well-trained traffic officers who investigate road collisions involving cyclists and pedestrians thoroughly can make all the difference to the likelihood of a successful prosecution. This, backed up by well-designed incident reporting systems and appropriate charging decisions, acts as a powerful deterrent against bad driving. 
  • The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and other agencies with road safety responsibilities also have an important part to play in enforcing road traffic law, and are as reliant as the police on adequate resourcing and good training.
Key facts: 
  • In France, a ‘zero tolerance’ policy over speeding offences, and substantial investment in safety cameras and road traffic policing, saw road deaths drop by 43% (2001–2007). 45% of French drivers have said that ‘fear of punishment’ made them change their behaviour.
  • Fewer breath tests lead to more drink-drive casualties and more people driving over the limit.
  • Traffic police levels in England and Wales fell by 37% from 2002/3-2013/14, from almost 7,000 uniformed officers down to just 4,356. During this time, total policing levels fluctuated a little from year to year, but not nearly to this degree: police officers in March 2014 numbered about 3.5% less than in 2003.
  • In 2014, just 3.4% of all the police in England and Wales exercised traffic responsibilities; in 2013/14, they recorded about 59% fewer ‘dangerous driving’ crimes than in 2002/03.
  • Evidence suggests that offence history and being at fault in a road crash is clearly linked.
  • The Health and Safety Executive’s role extends to work-related road travel; around a quarter of all road casualties in Great Britain involve a driver/rider who is at work at the time (or their passenger(s)).
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • Investing in roads policing is highly effective, not only for promoting road safety, but also in tackling other forms of crime. It should be prioritised by national government and included in all overarching policing strategies and plans (e.g. the Strategic Priority Requirement in England and Wales). This would strengthen the case for individual police forces throughout the UK and Police and Crime Commissioners (England and Wales) to give it the priority it deserves.    
  • Police and Crime Commissioners and local authority crime reduction/safety partnerships must prioritise speeding, dangerous driving and other road traffic offences as key issues to address.
  • The police should always refer serious injury collisions up to the prosecution service for a charging decision, not just those that result in a fatality. If they do not charge or decide not to refer the case, the police should be required to explain their decision systematically.
  • The police should avoid simply sending offending drivers on speed awareness or other remedial courses instead of prosecuting them.  Such courses should be available as court sanctions, not as an alternative to prosecution.
  • The police should be trained so that they understand the practical and legal issues facing cyclists and other non-motorised users.
  • Wherever possible, the police should respond to any reported collision involving a cyclist or pedestrian by:
    • Attending  the scene, taking statements and gathering evidence from witnesses;
    • Investigating incidents that result in very serious injury as thoroughly as those that result in death – the name of the College of Policing’s 'Investigating Road Deaths' manual should be changed, e.g. 'Investigating Road Crashes', to reflect the fact that it covers serious as well as fatal injuries;
    • Investigating reports of seriously bad or aggressive driving even when no injury occurs and allocating sufficient resources to do so – after all, such drivers are often involved in other criminal activity; 
    • Investigating and where possible charging motorists who fail to stop with ‘leaving the scene of the accident’.
  • The police should facilitate collision and ‘near miss’ reporting (e.g. via online systems)
  • The victims of road crashes involving unlawful driving should be entitled to the same support services that other victims of crime receive.
  • The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) should take a more proactive line over work-related road safety and should receive adequate funds to do so.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
March 2015
Cherry Allan's picture

Traffic law and enforcement: Overview

Laws against bad driving and their enforcement should aim to protect all road users, including cyclists, from intimidation and injury.
Driver at wheel
Headline Messages: 
  • The aim of laws against bad driving and their enforcement should be to protect all road users from intimidation and injury.
  • However, the under-resourcing of roads policing, inadequate police investigations, weak charging decisions and poorly conducted court and inquest hearings can all result in derisory sentences, or in failures to prosecute or convict at all. This causes enormous distress to injured and bereaved road crash victims, whilst perpetuating society’s complacent attitudes to safety on our roads.
  • Fundamental reform is needed so that the legal system effectively prevents bad driving, stops dismissing ‘dangerous’ driving as merely ‘careless’ and allows people to cycle without fear of injury through someone else’s wrongdoing.
Key facts: 
  • In law, dangerous driving falls not just “below”, but “far below” the standard that would be expected of a “competent and careful driver”. It should also “… be obvious to a competent and careful driver” that the driving in question would give rise to “danger either of injury to any person or of serious damage to property”. Hence the distinction between “dangerous” and “careless” driving is not about the state of mind of the driver, but whether their driving objectively caused obviously foreseeable danger.
  • In England and Wales, prosecutions for causing death by careless driving now outnumber those for causing death by dangerous driving (306 and 187 in 2013 respectively).
  • Prosecutions for causing death by dangerous driving have halved since the introduction of the charge of causing death by careless driving in 2008 (road fatalities have dropped by around 30% over this time).
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 

‘Dangerous’ v ‘careless’ driving

  • Bad driving that causes obviously foreseeable danger should be classed as a ‘dangerous’ driving offence. It should not, as often happens, be dismissed merely as ‘careless’ driving.
  • Prosecution guidelines need to reflect this in the first instance, but changes to the law itself may also be needed.

Driving bans

  • Long driving bans should be more widely used to penalise drivers who have caused serious danger, but not recklessly or intentionally.
  • Where drivers have caused serious danger recklessly or intentionally, or have a history of breaching bans, long custodial sentences are more appropriate.

The police

  • The police should investigate all road crashes thoroughly and systematically, and pass all charging decisions to the prosecution services where there has been an injury.

Prosecutors and charging

  • Prosecution guidelines should ensure that driving that gives rise to obviously foreseeable danger is treated as dangerous and not dismissed as merely careless.
  • Manslaughter or assault charges should be more widely used where there is evidence that danger was caused recklessly or intentionally.      

Courts and sentencing

  • Courts should make greater use of driving bans and not routinely accept ‘hardship’ pleas from drivers facing bans.

Coroners

  • Coroners should ask witnesses relevant questions and/or permit relevant questions to be asked during inquest hearings.
  • Coroners should take their duty to write ‘Preventing Further Deaths’ reports seriously to highlight actions needed to prevent future road fatalities.

Resources and training

  • The police, prosecution services and courts all need to be adequately resourced to deliver justice to a high standard.
  • Better training should be provided for traffic police, investigation officers, family liaison officers, prosecutors, coroners, judges, magistrates in relation to the handling of road traffic offences and incidents – particularly where cyclists or other vulnerable road users are involved.

Transparency and data collection

  • The Department for Transport, Home Office and Ministry of Justice (and the relevant bodies in Scotland) should set up a national road crash investigation agency, similar to those used for rail and aviation.
  • These departments should collaborate to develop systems to collect, monitor and disseminate local and national level data on the justice system’s responses to bad driving offences.

Victim blaming and victim support

  • All those involved at any stage in dealing with road traffic offences should guard against a propensity to blame the victim automatically.
  • Road collision victims and their families should receive support to the same standards as the victims of other crimes with similarly severe consequences. They should be kept well-informed of the progress of their case and consulted on key decisions.

Public attitudes

  • To help ensure that any legal reforms are likely to be accepted by juries, public awareness campaigns should reinforce the concept that bad driving is socially unacceptable; and public attitudes should be surveyed to monitor the effect of these campaigns.
  • A stronger link between road safety awareness and enforcement campaigns would support the wider effort to influence public attitudes on the need for safe road user behaviour.

Terminology

  • The word ‘accident’ should not be used to describe road collisions – ‘collision’ or ‘crash’ should be used instead.

Compensation

  • If a cyclist or pedestrian suffers personal injury or damage in a collision with a motor vehicle, they should be entitled to full compensation from the driver’s insurance unless the driver (or in practice their lawyers/insurers) can show that the injury was entirely caused by the cyclist or pedestrian behaving in a way that fell well below the standard that could be expected of them, taking account of their age, abilities and the circumstances of the collision.
  • Passing any proportion of the legal costs of pursuing compensation to the innocent victim of a road crash is unfair and wrong. The objective of damages in these cases should be to provide full compensation for injured people both for their injuries and financial losses. They are also a way of holding the person who caused the injury to account.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
February 2015
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