On Monday 16 February, Amy Aeron-Thomas, Director of Roadpeace talked to CCC on the subject of Presumed Liability
What it is:
A civil compensation system whereby pedestrians & cyclists injured vehicle collisions, are presumed to qualify for compensation. Presumed Liability reverses the burden of proof from those who have to prove they were not at fault (but children. elderly and the disabled would always qualify for compensation)
Who has it?
- Germany – has had Presumed Liability for 100 years, though in practise this is hard fought for.
- Luxembourg – also has it, though this is a small country
- France – ‘regards a drunk pedestrian as part of the national landscape!’ – and so has the necessary provision
- The Netherlands also has the law, but in practise it starts off well, but becomes increasingly less straightforward to draw upon
- Personal safety – like many road safety measures, – ‘proof’ is required that the vulnerable road user was not ‘to blame’ for their part ib a collision.
- For every single death of a vehicle user there are something like 280 pedestrians killed and 18 cyclists killed.
- The evidence shows that the faster that someone is treated after an injury, the faster they will recover (physically and psychologically) – but rapid treatment is dependent on there being a police investigation.
- There are half a million road deaths each year. No questioning/interviewing is carried out as part of the investigation.
- The cost to the health service from reported crashes is £500 million – involving some 2000 people per day. In addition, some crashes go unreported.
- The ‘innocent until proven guilty’ factor still covers the motorist along with the need to change motor insurance compensation rules.
- Why unlikely:
No party except The Greens support the introduction of Presumed Liability (who have done so since 2011), though the Liberal Democrats support a form of ‘proportional liability’ which is quite messy and would mean motor industry involvement. Neither Labour nor the Tories support the proposals – though there are a few individual exceptions in both parties.
Michael Dugher, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Transport has made similar references to the infamous ‘war on the motorist’ phrase.
For campaigning, Amy felt questions for candidates might not be worth asking on this issue though did feel we should aim to influence the Labour candidate, Keir Starmer (although he is reported only to be “not unsympathetic”) which might help with changing the Labour party policy on this issue.
Amy expressed the view that we are moving in the opposite direction and, with an end to the ‘no win no fee’ approach in legal cases, crash victims can now find themselves in the position of having to pay up to 25% of a claim for compensation which impacts 85% of claims.
Scotland’s Cycle Law
Scotland’s campaign for a liability law has so far been rather overly concerned with pedestrian claims against cyclists.
The rule is follow whereby children, the elderly and disabled should always qualify for compensation. In 1993 Scotland talked about a ‘mutual respect’ (on the roads) but have been resistant to have trials of presumed lability – even on 20mph roads only (despite the all the arguments for the obvious positive benefits (‘like those for daylight savings’).
The issue of pedestrians/cyclists in conflict with vehicles has not been regarded as a big enough issue. There is greater focus on pedestrians generally, with cyclists seen as a persecuted minority.
The MET & TfL police
Speaking about the Michael Mason case, Amy said she was surprised at the Met’s response – she would have expected them to know ‘that the cyclists would go after them’.
A new roads policing command, involving the merging of TfL Transport police and Tube police, is more concerned about cycle security
(and TfL get a ring fenced £90 million for this despite there being no indicators as to whether this money is well spent). Meanwhile, the issues of speeding and mobile phone use by drivers continues to be largely disregarded. Vehicle break-ins and pick-pocketing are considered as ‘crimes’ whereas death & injury to vulnerable road users are not.
However, a positive shift has occurred with the fact that TfL is prioritising KSIs that are based on locations where cyclists/pedestrians have been hurt rather than drivers.
The Road Danger Reduction Forum
RoadPeace has joined The Road Danger Reduction Forum to create the Traffic Justice Alliance, which also includes LCC, 20s Plenty For Us , Sustrans (tbc) and Living Streets.
It is campaigning for –
•Priority in traffic policing on offences likely to harm others
•Crime statistics to included driving offences
•Collision and prosecution data to be linked
•Talking about “road danger reduction” not “road safety”
With 26,000 collisions occur each year, statistics are needed for how often police go to investigate, along with a direct comparison across different boroughs. What can the council ask of the police? What about funding?
There is a big push for driving bans as opposed to prison or retraining etc, to tackle Hit & Runs (most of which are caused by disqualified drivers).
Drink driving currently carries a one year driving ban and vehicle confiscation. There are NO statistics on this or careless driving and plea bargaining is amongst a range of options put forward to reduce the possibility of a trial – which is something avoided wherever possible.
Mobile phone use while driving versus drink driving
Mobile phone use while driving is more dangerous than drink driving but never leads to a driving ban.
Re-testing could be considered. The driving test should mean that driving standards remain as they were when the test was taken. Drink driving is ten times as likely to receive prosecution than dangerous driving. Offenders can be offered participation in the NDORS scheme -The National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme.
Amy suggested there is little to be gained from asking the police to act on 20mph. It will not affect them. Cameras being the only thing that catch speeders (There were twenty nine Fixed Penalty Notices issued by police in Camden last year!! – though more are as a result of camera monitoring).
She suggested putting pressure on councils to understand why they have 20mph lmits.
Black boxes in vehicles may be the way ahead. Despite the IAM’s claims, there is no evidence that advanced training reduces risks.
Something called ‘Intelligent Speed Adaptation’ (ISA) has less impact on speeds.
A question for Keir Starmer was recommended: “should any driving offence that causes injury be considered as a crime? eg for speeding and Hit & Runs? (speeding usually becomes ‘careless’)”.
Report by Steven Edwards; Photos: Geoff Stilwell.