The Queensland government has rejected a proposal to introduce a presumed liability law, arguing that cyclists are at fault 41 per cent of the time. Cycling campaigners argue that these figures, which only cover serious crashes, do not tell the full story.
The Brisbane Times (link is external) reports that over a thousand people signed a petition asking for a change to Queensland civil liability laws (it would not have applied to criminal cases) which would have put the onus on the motorist’s insurance company to prove the cyclist caused a crash in the event of a collision.
The petition argued that a vulnerable road user involved in a collision has the least potential to cause death or injury; is usually the only casualty; and is often the only witness other than the motorist.
Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the government was not considering changing the law, and to justify that position he cited Queensland Police Service crash data which indicated that in serious crashes involving a motor vehicle and a bicycle between 2012 and 2016, the cyclist was at fault 41 per cent of the time.
“Given cyclists are at fault in a significant portion of accidents, albeit fewer than motorists, reversing the onus of proof may impact upon a court’s ability to consider the specific circumstances of a crash and apportion liability fairly,” he wrote.
“Issues of liability of the different parties in a crash are, therefore, likely to be best left to the legal process, without a reverse onus of proof being introduced.”
That conclusion was questioned by Bicycle Queensland chief executive Anne Savage, who took issue with the use of only serious crash figures. She said that drivers were at fault in at least 80 per cent of all road crashes involving a cyclist and a motor vehicle.
A Monash University Accident Research Centre study found drivers were at fault in 87 per cent of incidents with cyclists; a Royal Automobile Association of South Australia report found the cyclist was not at fault in 70 per cent of crashes; while Adelaide University’s Centre for Automotive Safety Research found four in five crashes between cars and bicycles were caused by the driver.
“We would welcome a balanced discussion about how to get better outcomes for everybody,” said Savage.
“We have concerns about the high cost of legal and investigation fees for all crash victims and the rising costs of insurance premiums for drivers and riders. Presumed-liability laws would in all likelihood bring overall costs down and improve road safety.”