It seems that ministers are now reaching for the law to promote “greener” modes of transport and hassle motorists. Government advisors are suggesting changing civil law to make motorists automatically responsible for compensation and insurance to injured parties in road collisions.
The radical measure is driven by the desire to increase the number of cyclists on the roads, as cycling is considered to be a more environmentally friendly mode of transport. The chief executive of Cycling England, an agency funded by Department for Transport (DfT) stated there needed to be a number of policy changes. The most controversial change being to place “the legal onus on motorists when there are accidents.”
Many motorists argue- and rightly so- they are already victimised by predatory traffic wardens and the increasing number of speed cameras popping up throughout the UK. Both of which generate huge amounts of revenue. However the utilization of the law to punish drivers for all road collisions involving cars goes from being a money spinning scheme to something that is much more disturbing.
Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? The notion- upon which our legal system is supposedly built- that all evidence will be taken into account and a fair decision will be reached. Well not if the law is changed- in that case the driver is always guilty.
The proposals do not even mention the fact that sometimes dangerous cycling can be the cause of road accidents. There are a minority of cyclists who jump red lights or otherwise cycle recklessly and sometimes they are responsible for road crashes. If the legal onus falls on motorists for all collusions involving cars, cyclists have a huge legal advantage. Such advantage could feasibly encourage more reckless cycling.
It would appear that policy-makers are so blinkered by the desire to get people out of cars and onto to bikes that they are no longer trying to deliver fair and balanced policy. There can be environmental and health benefits to cycling. But, that does not give ministers the right to unbalance the law and risk punishing innocent motorists while letting cyclists responsible for accidents off the hook. These proposals reinforce motorists' claims that they are treated unfairly by transport policy.
The government needs to recognise that some people need to drive. Others should be free to decide whether they want to drive or prefer cycling. Employing civil law, and putting drivers at a disadvantage in the courts, to try and influence a personal decision is grossly unfair.