Cyclists call for ‘presumption of liability’ against motorists in civil cases

Cycling accident campaigners have called for a presumption of liability against motorists to be introduced in civil cases after a freedom of information request revealed only a small number of drivers are reported to prosecutors following accidents with bicycles.

Members of Cycle Law Scotland would like the Scottish government to introduce a system of “presumed liability” in civil cases which would require motorists to prove they are not liable for injury, damage or loss.

The FOI request made of Police Scotland showed that in 2012 nine cyclists were killed while 898 were injured.

However, the data suggests few of the incidents resulted in the driver being reported to the procurator fiscal.

Brenda Mitchell of Cycle Law Scotland (pictured) said: “The figures showed there were 400 incidents involving motorists and cyclists in Lothian and the Borders in 2012, but only 44 were referred for prosecution.

“That suggests there isn’t a robust system of criminal law in place.”

She added: “One of the arguments often used against a system of stricter liability for vulnerable road users is that the existing criminal law provides all the protection a cyclist or pedestrian needs.

“If drivers are regularly prosecuted for careless driving offences where cyclists have been injured, it might alter driver behaviours and at the same time protect cyclists.

“These figures suggest that simply is not the case.”

However, the Scottish government questioned whether a presumption of liability would reduce fatalities and injuries on the roads.

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “There does not appear to be any robust evidence to suggest that the introduction of presumed liability would improve safety.

“The Scottish government, Transport Scotland and all our road safety partners are continuing to work together to try to enable cyclists to use Scotland’s roads safely.

“A broad portfolio of approaches is needed and will continue to be developed to improve cyclist safety.”

Police Scotland also defended its road safety record.

Superintendent Iain Murray, head of roads policing said: “Police Scotland is committed to reducing casualties and improving safety on the roads.

“The most significant challenges we face in this area are risk taking by road users and how individuals interact with each other on the road.

“Vulnerable road users, such as cyclists, are a particular concern and initiatives and campaigns were staged last year to highlight the risks and challenge risky behaviours.

“This took place at both national and local levels and will also continue this year.”

He added: “Where incidents do occur, the circumstances are fully investigated and if the evidence suggests that someone has been to blame for the collision a report will be submitted to the procurator fiscal.”