Drivers have 1 in 10 chance of going to jail for killing a cyclist
The London Evening Standard reported this week that drivers in London have a one in 10 chance of going to jail if they are involved in the death of a cyclist.
1 in 10 drivers jailed for causing a cyclists’ death, many more not prosecuted
The newspaper analysed police data on the 40 cyclists killed in the capital between 2010 and 2012 and found that only 4 of the drivers involved had been sent to prison.
More worryingly, only 15 of the cases were even prosecuted, the remaining cases were either discontinued by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or there was no charge brought.
Sentencing for bad driving offences is currently far too lenient, both for fatal and non-fatal incidents and is in desperate need of review to make sure the danger of bad driving is eliminated. The current maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving is 14 years imprisonment, but this is seldom imposed. Multiple aggravating factors need to be present in order for judges to impose the maximum sentence. In 2013, Nicholas Lovell, the driver that killed Bristol couple Ross and Clare Simons, received the maximum sentence – discounted for a guilty plea – however, he had previous convictions for driving whilst disqualified and dangerous driving, he was disqualified from driving at the time of the incident and he fled the scene of the crash.
Review of sentencing guidelines
The Government announced last year that it will conduct a review of sentencing guidelinesfor driving offences that cause death and serious injury, but, disappointingly, it has already twice postponed the start date and will only begin the consultation in spring 2015. What’s more, the proposed review only covers offences that cause death and serious injury but not the offences of dangerous and careless driving. CTC will maintain pressure on the Sentencing Council to broaden the review so that it also covers these offences.
The revised guidelines should include sentences that discourage bad driving, with a focus on prolonged driving bans and re-education for those who do not need to be locked up for public protection and custodial sentences for those who deliberately drive dangerously or who drive whilst disqualified.
A relatively short custodial sentence may be appropriate for drivers who have caused considerable harm but where this genuinely appears to have arisen from a momentary lapse by a normally careful and competent driver. This sentence could be suspended if an early guilty plea is made, but should be coupled with a substantial driving ban. Hardship pleas to avoid driving bans should not be accepted. Less serious offences are best penalised by non-custodial sentences such as driving bans, fines and community orders.
Although a shockingly small number of people go to jail for causing the death of a cyclist, a huge number of people are never even prosecuted for the offence.
Rhia Weston, CTC’s Road Safety Campaigner
Low prosecution rates
Although a shockingly small number of people go to jail for causing the death of a cyclist, a huge number of people are never even prosecuted for the offence. This and the fact that prosecution rates for driving that caused death dropped 77% across England and Wales in the decade to 2012, send out the message that the justice system doesn’t consider bad driving that kills worthy of a prosecution.
In addition, prosecutions for causing death by dangerous driving (max. sentence = 14 years) have plummeted since the offence of causing death by careless driving (max. sentence = 5 years) was introduced in 2008. This makes it very hard for the courts to hand out rational sentences. We should be even angrier about this than the fact that a minority of people are being jailed.
The CPS frequently discontinue cases due to lack of evidence, therefore, gathering sufficient evidence during a police road crash investigation is vital for ensuring the viability of a prosecution. The police and CPS often charge drivers with weak offences (e.g. careless driving instead of dangerous driving) due to multiple factors, including misinterpretation of charging and prosecution guidelines, and the awareness that juries are reluctant to convict drivers if they face jail.
Clarity in charging and prosecution guidelines and better training for those applying them are therefore crucial to ensuring offending drivers are charged and charged appropriately.CTC’s Road Justice campaign, sponsored by Slater and Gordon Lawyers, is calling for better roads policing to improve evidence gathering and better charging and prosecution decisions. The campaign will publish a report in March 2014 focusing on charging and prosecution practice and how it can be improved.
With over two thirds of bicycles stuck in a garden shed and hardly ever seeing the light of day, the Brighton and Hove CTC Member Group has come up with an ingenious plan to encourage more people to cycle in the New Year.
Members of the Brighton and Hove CTC are introducing the ‘Shed Rides’ aimed at those slightly reluctant cyclists who have a bike buried under plant pots and half empty tins of paint somewhere in the garden shed.
According to national statistics, 43% of the population have access to a bicycle, but less than 10% use them frequently. Cycling regularly will help you meet recommended physical activity guidelines, improve your sense of wellbeing and offer you a cheaper source of exercise than paying to go to the gym.
The first ‘Shed Ride’ takes place on Sunday 5 January and will be a gentle flat ride from Hove Lawns to Worthing and back mostly on cycle paths.
Organiser Howard Blanks from Brighton and Hove CTC said: “We recognise that many people are put off cycling because of lack of confidence, the amount of traffic or perhaps being worried about having to cycle too far out of their comfort zone. If you join one of our rides, you do so safe in the knowledge that a Shed Bike Ride is over a shorter distance, generally on cycle paths and at a very comfortable pace led by experienced cyclists.”
Brighton & Hove has been in the news for some of the excellent cycle initiatives that have taken place recently with new cycle paths and 20mph speed limits; as a cyclist it has never been so good to live in the city.” Howie Blanks, Brighton and Hove CTC
The group is also introducing free bicycle maintenance courses to get you through the basics. The first is on Sunday 26 January at The Giant Store in Shoreham 10am – 12 noon. To take part, please email:[email protected].
The Shed Bike Ride is free and if you find cycling is for you, there is the opportunity to join the Brighton and Hove CTC for more regular rides. It takes place on Sunday 5 January 2014. Please meet at the Hove Peace Statue at 11am or join them at 11.30 am at The Giant Store, Ropetackle to cycle to Worthing.
If you would like to organise a similar event with your group please contact Membership Manager Matt Mallinder.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has pledged £30,000 to enable CTC, the national cycling charity to revamp its ‘Fill That Hole’ pothole reporting website and develop a new app compatible with smartphones running Android software. The current system is only available on Iphone.
Cycling and Roads Minister Robert Goodwill demonstrates the ‘Fill that Hole’ app
Cycling and Roads Minister Robert Goodwill made the announcement on a visit to Oldham. The cash is part of a £5.8 billion additional spend on highways announced in the summer.
Robert Goodwill MP said “At best potholes are an irritation but at worst they can damage vehicles and pose a serious danger to cyclists. That is why we want people to tell councils where to find them so they can fill them in. This app means more people are going to be able to report potholes more easily.
Government backs CTC’s pothole reporting website
“Filling potholes in quickly is only one half of the story. Research has also shown a long-term approach to road maintenance, rather than patch and mend, can save councils and taxpayers money and potentially save lives thanks to better road conditions.”
CTC has been working to ensure roads are safe for cycling since our foundation in 1878. We are delighted to have the Government’s support for our‘Fill That Hole’ website and app, which are already highly effective ways for road users to get potholes filled. This partnership with the Department for Transport will enable us to provide this free service to far more cyclists and other road users. It’s also a great example of CTC and the Government working together to get Britain cycling.
CTC Chief Executive
Since CTC launched the ‘Fill that Hole’ website in 2007 there have been over 91 thousand potholereports filed by cyclists and other road users. The development of the site will make the system more user friendly for road users and an invaluable tool for highways authorities.
‘Fill that Hole’ sends local authorities up-to-the-minute information about potholes which the council may not otherwise have known about, allowing them to identify trouble spots needing action fast. In the past year around £23.8m was paid in compensation by local authorities across England due to the poor condition of their roads according to the Asphalt industry Alliance.
The support for the new app and improved website comes as more local authorities adopt new Government guidelines which urge councils to plan extensive maintenance well in advance, rather than years of costly ‘patching’ as potholes appear – saving the taxpayer money.
Over 9 million iPhone users can download the website’s current app to report potholed roads to their councils; the new app could boost that figure to over 26 million, and will make it easier and faster to submit potholes. In the meantime, road users are encouraged to report potholes on the website and when the winter damage to roads is at its greatest.
CTC originally developed its app for cyclists, who can receive life-changing injuries from accidents caused by potholes, but it is now used by all types of road user, from delivery drivers to motorists concerned about potential damage to their vehicle.
“I have used the Fill That Hole service a few times in the last 3 years. It’s easy to use and works! I had great success with our lane which was in very poor repair I reported pot holes several times and they were usually patch repaired within 3 weeks.
These repairs never lasted long and after continuing to report the holes, eventually a highways engineer came out to inspect the lane, he agreed it was unacceptable but said there was not enough funds to make proper repairs. Last year however the whole lane was resurfaced in 4 inches of tarmac, super job done and should be good for 10 years at least.”
Graham Wood from Macclesfield, cyclist and CTC member.
Users of the site and app can expect to see a series of updates over the first half of 2014