Shocking numbers of drivers involved in cyclists’ deaths avoid jail

Shocking numbers of drivers involved in cyclists’ deaths avoid jail

A shocking number of drivers are avoiding jail and are keeping their driving licences despite being involved in fatal collisions with cyclists finds Cycling UK.
  • Freedom of Information request of 43 forces shows 5 out of 6 drivers involved in fatal collisions with cyclists avoid prison
  • Cycling UK findings show less than a third of drivers involved in fatal collisions with cyclists lose their licence
  • Cycling charity calls for Government to honour commitment to wider review of road traffic offences

Freedom of Information requests made by Cycling UK of all 43 police forces operating in England and Wales revealed six out of seven drivers do not receive immediate prison sentences and less than a third lose their licences.

The findings cover the period of 2007 to 2017. Overall 209 cyclists’ deaths were reported over the 11 year period, according to the 10 forces which responded to Cycling UK’s FOI request. 86 drivers were charged with a ‘causing death’ offence, either by careless or dangerous driving, of whom 66 were successfully convicted, 31 of whom received custodial sentencing.

Twenty police forces stated they did not hold the relevant information, 12 forces failed to respond within the timeframe set by the Freedom of Information Act, and one force only had figures available for 2012 – 2017.

The charity is concerned the legal system continues to deny justice to victims of road crime despite assurances from the Government this would be addressed with a wider review of road traffic offences promised in 2014 that has still not happened.

Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore said, “Back in May 2014, the government saw sense and announced its intention to hold a wide scale review of road traffic offences. Four years on and with thousands of lives lost on our roads, little has been done. That’s short sighted and is a shocking failure to act that ignores the greatest dangers on our roads.”

In February 2014, 70-year-old teacher Michael Mason was cycling on Regent Street in London, when he was hit from behind by a black Nissan Juke, and passed away 19 days later having never regained consciousness.

Throughout the case the driver failed to explain how she failed to see Mr Mason who was on a well-lit street and using bicycle lights. The driver was eventually acquitted of causing Mick’s death by careless driving by an Old Bailey jury in April 2017.

Mr Mason’s daughter, Anna Tatton-Brown said: “How many families must go through the trauma of not just losing a loved one, but then being let down by a justice system that fails to put victims first?  In Mick’s case, why should failing to be aware of what’s in front of you while you’re driving be an acceptable mistake? The law needs to be strengthened and made clearer, so people are properly held accountable for anything that may happen when they drive poorly.”

Since the Government promised its wider review of road traffic offences in 2014, Cycling UK estimates 465 cyclists have died as a result of collisions with motor vehicles in England and Wales.

Cycling UK has reviewed 19 cases reported in the media of incidents where cyclists, pedestrians and a motorcycle passenger were involved in fatal collisions with motor vehicles, where the driver claimed not to see the victim. The report considers how the law deals with these situations, and finds an alarming discrepancy between people being charged and convicted for “careless” and “dangerous” driving offences, leading the charity to call for changes to the legal framework to eliminate the element of subjectivity and stop driving that causes obvious danger from being dismissed as merely ‘careless’.

Mr Dollimore said:

“The Government is shirking its responsibility to all road users, which is why Cycling UK is renewing our call for a wider review of road traffic offences, looking specifically at the charges relating to what is classified as ‘dangerous’ and ‘careless’ behaviour.

“Cycling UK accepts a prison sentence isn’t always the answer and we want to see far greater use of driving disqualification. Drivers who pose a risk have no place on our roads, and the law should be strengthened to ensure their removal.

“Whether you’re walking, cycling or driving, we all deserve traffic laws that deliver justice and it’s about time the Government ensured that they did.”

Cycling UK is urging people to take action via their website at: www.cyclinguk.org/roadjustice

A similar FOI inquiry by the BBC published in June 2014, two months after the Government’s announcement of plans for a full review of road traffic offences, found 44 percent of offenders charged were issued with prison sentences. Cycling UK believes this shows Government inactivity over the past four years has meant nothing has changed.

Contact information 

For more information contact the national Cycling UK Press Office on 01483 238 315, 07786 320 713 or email publicity@cyclinguk.org

Notes to editors 
  1. Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, inspires and helps people to cycle and keep cycling, whatever kind of cycling they do or would like to do. Over a century’s experience tells us that cycling is more than useful transport; it makes you feel good, gives you a sense of freedom and creates a better environment for everyone. www.cyclinguk.org
  2. The figures used are based upon the responses of 10 forces: Avon and Somerset, Cheshire, Durham, Dyfed-Powys, Gwent, Hampshire, North Wales, North Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Thames Valley. Including the partial response from one force (Devon and Cornwall) covering 2012 – 2017, total cyclist fatalities would 224. The full response table and Cycling UK’s review of 19 media reports on vulnerable road users involved in fatal collisions with motor vehicles are available via Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/vylm36npqrb53bl/AAAEk92sDEHFVMacQfN-0wEra?dl=0
  3. A similar FOI inquiry by the BBC published in June 2014, two months after the Government’s announcement of plans for a full review of road traffic offences, found 44 percent of offenders charged were issued with prison sentences. Cycling UK believes this shows Government inactivity over the past four years has meant nothing has changed. http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/28345522/cycling-deaths-fewer-than-half-of-drivers-face-jail
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