Reflecting On Road Safety Week 2021

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With minimal fanfare to the wider public, this past week has been Road Safety Week, the UK’s biggest annual road safety campaign.

The theme this year is ‘road safety heroes’ celebrating the work of road safety professionals and exploring what part we can all play in ensuring our roads are safer for all.

So firstly, a massive shout out to those who help school children cross roads, road safety campaigners, designers of new safety features, Institute of Advanced Driver teachers, volunteers running cycling proficiency and a whole load more.

I often say it would be lovely if I was out of a job because people didn’t get injured on our roads and that is true. Sadly, that is unlikely to happen for quite some time.  Take cyclists for example: between 2015 and 2020, an average of 2 cyclists died and 83 were seriously injured every week.  Those are Mums and Dads and sons and daughters and brothers and sisters.

Recently Cycling UK has been doing campaigning work in this sphere.  It is true to say that whilst we share our roads, we don’t all share the risk on those roads.  Pedestrians cause the least road danger but are by far the most vulnerable.  A bit of flimsy plastic on one’s head when on 2 wheels is not really a match for a steel car travelling at 40mph.  Even the RAC agree something needs to be done.  Their Head of Road Policy says:

“Everyone who uses the roads has a shared responsibility for safety and those that break the law should suffer the consequences. It’s important to review existing laws from time to time to ensure they are clear and robust enough to prevent illegal behaviour, reduce the number of collisions and, ultimately, save lives.”

They have therefore come up with a 5-point plan to improve road safety for cyclists. These are as follows:

  1. Stop the ongoing risk to the public of bad drivers by disqualifying more of them earlier.
  2. Stop magistrates from letting motoring offenders off bans on grounds of ‘exceptional hardship’ when the hardship they claim is not at all ‘exceptional’.
  3. Stop people opening car doors without looking properly by creating a new offence of ‘Causing death or serious injury by opening vehicle door’
  4. Stop drivers from leaving the scene if they know, or ought to know, that they’ve seriously injured or killed someone by creating a new specific offence
  5. Stop people whose driving was manifestly dangerous being charged, prosecuted and convicted of ‘careless’ driving. This means making the distinction between ‘careless’ and ‘dangerous’ so much clearer that courts find it far less conflicting to apply.

Readers may agree with some, all or none of these points. Sentences are of course always subjective.  But if one looks at some of the most egregious and tragic cases of death by dangerous driving, one would be hard pushed to justify some of the sentences handed out by our justice system.  A recent debate in Parliament heard some harrowing stories of families whose bereavement has been exacerbated by the failure of our legal system.

Unfortunately, these stories remain all too common and solicitors seem destined to continue to form a small, but vital part of a team that picks up the pieces for someone badly injured or a family that is grieving a loved one.

At Bennett Griffin, we offer a warm, wide-ranging and expert legal service to clients in Sussex and across the south east. Find out more about our personal injury claims team and how they could help you.

If you have any questions about this article – or need more information about any of our legal services – fill in the form below or visit our contact page.

Tim Ransley is a Partner at Bennett Griffin in our Personal Injury team, as well as being a keen cyclist in his spare time.

Disclaimer: Please note that this update is not intended to be exhaustive or be a substitute for legal advice. The application of the law in this area will often depend upon the specific facts and you are advised to seek specific advice on any given scenario.