Cycling campaigners in the UK have criticised the legal system for failing to convict dangerous drivers.
The CTC, the largest cyclists’ membership body in the country, has been campaigning for drivers who hit cyclists to be charged with dangerous driving, rather than lesser offences.
But figures just released by the Government show convictions have fallen by a third. In fact, dangerous driving saw the steepest decline in detections of all driving offences, from 11,400 in 2003 to 7,400 in 2006.
Convictions for the lesser offence of careless driving have risen at the same time, but this has been attributed to a clampdown on drivers using mobile phones, rather than more prosecutions for other circumstances.
The decline in dangerous driving convictions is thought to be partly due to courts ‘raising the bar’ on what is considered careless driving. This means drivers who in the past might have been charged with the more serious offence, now only face the lesser charge, with greatly reduced penalties.
Last year lorry driver Michael Thorn was convicted of careless driving after he turned left at a set of traffic lights, straight into the path of cyclist Emma Foa. who died when she was crushed under the wheels of his HGV.
Thorn, who insisted he had looked in his mirrors before turning, was fined £300.
In a letter to The Times, senior CTC officer Roger Geffen said the figures were evidence of the ‘feebleness’ of the legal system in dealing with bad drivers.
He added: “As far back as 2003, the House of Commons Transport Select Committee reported that the Crown Prosecution Service was charging dangerous drivers with “careless driving”, simply because it was easier to prove. New data suggests that, if anything, the situation has since worsened significantly.
“Dangerous driving endangers everyone using the roads, but the people most affected are children, older and disabled people and anyone using the streets on foot or by bike. The Government, police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service must reverse the decline in priority on enforcing the rules of the road, and the numbers of dedicated traffic police in particular. With 3,200 people being killed on our roads each year, the legal system must signal very clearly that this is not the result of mere ‘accidents’.”
The CTC is calling on cyclists who have been hit and injured to get in touch with information about the charges the driver faced – particularly if it was careless driving.
You can email the organisation at email@example.com.