This week the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that a “sentencing review” of motorists convicted of causing death by dangerous driving will be launched early next year. This must surely be heartening news to more than three quarter of a million cyclists who fear for their lives every single time they set off on their daily commute to work – and not least, for seeking rightful justice in future bicycle accident claims.
While it has been estimated that the number of commuters who daily cycle to work and back rose by 14 per cent to more than 762,000 between 2001 and 2011, the number of cyclist injuries rose by 50% from just under 3,000 in 2006 to nearly 4,500 during the latter half of the ten year period.
The announcement follows hot on the heels of the government’s confirmation that £77 million pounds is to be invested into cycling safety infrastructure across 8 cities, including Manchester and Leeds, and £17 million for 4 national parks.
Review of the criminal justice process…
Forming part of its response to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s (APPCG) report “Get Britain Cycling”, published in April, the DfT will be undertaking a comprehensive review of the criminal justice process. There is a widely held view that cyclists killed or seriously injured by a motorist’s negligent driving are not receiving justice or proper legal redress because appropriate sentences reflecting the seriousness and devastation caused are not being imposed.
Currently, drivers convicted of causing death by dangerous driving currently face a maximum 14 years in prison. However, in far too many instances, motorists (even those with previous convictions and lack of insurance or even a full licence) may simply receive a driving ban together with a modest fine and community service for causing the death or life-changing injuries to a cyclist as a result of their ‘careless’ driving.
According to The Sentencing Council Guidelines, the “starting point” for sentencing of careless or inconsiderate driving is 15 months custody while the “sentencing range” is 36 weeks to 3 years custody.
The culture of road use must change to encourage cyclists to feel safe to come out onto the road. At the same time,justice has to be served by more appropriate, harder sentencing, which informs drivers of the consequences of failing to drive carefully around vulnerable cyclists and endangering their lives.