Posted by Mark Hambleton, Partner
Cycling safety: are the sentences severe enough?
Mark Hambleton, Associate, Personal Injury team, blogs about cycling safety: “I consider myself in equal parts a solicitor and a cyclist. Both law and cycling are passions of mine; personal injury law and cycling safety is where they overlap.”
There have been times on my daily 29 mile commute to and from the office when I have had close shaves with vehicles pulling out of side roads or overtaking too closely.
Last month, statistics reported in the national press highlighted the importance of safety on the road for cyclists and whether sentences are severe enough for those motorists that kill cyclists:
• in the last 7 years, 148 people in the UK were charged with killing a cyclist
• out of those found guilty, only 44% went to prison
• those who were jailed on average spent less than 2 years in prison
• 26% of those found guilty were not even banned from driving
• for those who were banned from driving, the average ban was 22 months.
This figure of 44% falls below the overall average for England and Wales of 60% for those found guilty of causing a death on the road (including pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers).
The current maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving is 14 years in prison and the minimum length of disqualification is 2 years. The maximum sentence for death by careless and inconsiderate driving is 5 years in prison and disqualification for a minimum of 1 year.
Cases close to home
Living and working in Bristol and Bath respectively, I paid close attention to the sentencing of the Bristol bus driver, Gavin Hill, who deliberately knocked Phillip Mead of his bicycle. He was sentenced to 17 months in jail after pleading guilty to dangerous driving and causing grievous bodily harm (broken leg). Mr Hill was told that he would serve half his sentence before being considered for release from prison on licence. The shocking video of the incident which caused a stir in the cycling community and in the press at the time can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PO3PWJtDJME
The other tragic case that springs to mind happened in Hanham, on the outskirts of Bristol. Ross and Clare Simons were killed by Nicholas Lovell as they rode their tandem bicycle. Mr Lovell fled the scene – he was disqualified from driving at the time. He had a terrible motoring history and had been previously banned from driving. He had 11 previous convictions for driving while disqualified and also for having been convicted of dangerous driving on 4 occasions.
Mr Lovell pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and was sentenced to 10 years and 6 months in prison. Mr Lovell was also banned from driving for life. Family and friends of Ross and Clare are campaigning for longer sentences.
What can the authorities do about it?
I share the view that Chris Boardman has expressed in his role as adviser for British Cycling: harsher punishments should help to improve the overall standard of driving in the vicinity of cyclists. In these two cases though the prospect of a harsher sentence would probably have made no difference as Mr Lovell had a complete disregard of the law and Mr Hill appears to have acted in a moment of madness.
Apart from harsher sentences, a better infrastructure for cycling is another measure which should dramatically reduce the number of accidents. It remains to be seen whether the Government’s cycling budget will be increased from £2 per head to £10 per head by 2020 but that gives an idea of the level of investment required to improve our infrastructure.
About Mark Hambleton
Mark Hambleton is a specialist personal injury lawyer and a keen cyclist – in his own words, “solicitor and cyclist in equal measure.” Last year alone, he cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End (963 miles) in 9 days in aid of the Bath Rugby Foundation and completed the Bike Bath challenge as part of the Withy King team. In preparation for Bike Bath 2014, Mark cycled to Gloucester and back just last week-end. Not to mention that he also cycles to work every day – 29 miles round trip! Mark is a keen advocate of cyclists’ safety and regularly speaks up on safety-related matters.
Contact Mark now for specialist advice on your cycling injury claim. Call 01225 730 214 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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