Death by Dangerous Cycling Consultation Opens

20th August 2018 Driving Offences

This week, the Department for Transport has opened a consultation in order to examine whether the current road traffic laws cater sufficiently for situations where death or serious injury is caused as a result of the way in which a cyclist has ridden their bike.

Currently, the law on causing death or serious injury by driving does not cater for situations when the harm has been caused by a cyclist. Sections 1 and 1A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 can only be committed by a person 'driving a mechanically propelled vehicle'; as a standard bicycle is not driven by petrol, oil, steam or electricity, it is not currently possible for a cyclist to commit the offence of causing death/serious injury whilst driving.

The closest offences which are currently available to prosecutors in these types of situations are as follows:

  • Section 28, Road Traffic Act 1988: Dangerous Cycling; and
  • Section 35 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861: Drivers of Carriages Injuring Persons by Furious Driving.

Charlie Alliston was convicted of the offence of Injuring a Person by Furious Driving on 18 September 2017 and his conviction has sparked campaigns calling for an update in the law. This is on the basis that the law is both outdated (the purpose of parliament was to create an offence relating to horse drawn carriages) and inadequate, as the wording of the offence does not actually refer to causing death.

However, the key issue which has led to the decision of government to hold a consultation in respect of how cycling offences are dealt with, is the vast difference in respect of sentencing for offences which have the same serious consequences:

Driving Offence

Sentence

Causing Death by Dangerous Driving

Maximum 14 years imprisonment

Causing Serious Injury by Dangerous Driving

Maximum 1 years imprisonment

 

Cycling offence

Sentence

Injuring Persons by Furious Driving

Maximum 2 years imprisonment

Dangerous Cycling

Maximum fine of £2,500


Campaigners have argued that there should be parity between offences committed by both cyclists and motorists and that sentencing for both offences should reflect the fact that the consequences of driving or riding a vehicle dangerously are equally serious and that the victims and families of those affected would expect the sentence to reflect this.

However, others argue that this is not an endemic problem, the number of cases of cyclists causing serious harm to pedestrians is still very low. The Department for Transport statistics show that whilst 448 pedestrians were killed in 2016 in road accidents, only three of these cases involved cyclists. Furthermore, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents reports that for the same year, 102 cyclists were killed in road accidents.

The consultation ends on 05 November 2018, with government expected to publish their proposals within 3 months after closing.

If you or someone you know faces any investigations relating to an incident on a bicycle then please do not hesitate to contact us on 0800 804 8159 or complete the online enquiry form.

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Grace O'Driscoll is a Trainee Solicitor located in Manchesterin our Trainee Solicitors department

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