Scott Whyte: Investment key to preventing accidents

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Political support has been growing for a radical change in the law with regard to who is at fault when those on two wheels and those on four collide.

The idea being put forward is to shift the burden of proof in civil cases from the cyclist or pedestrian to the motorist, meaning instead of a cyclist or pedestrian having to prove a motorist was at fault, the onus would be the other way round.

This type of ‘stricter liability’ in accidents involving cyclists may be one step towards addressing the increasing number of cycling-related injuries and fatalities each year on Scotland’s roads. However, this by itself will not solve the problem.

Motorists do not go out intending to cause harm to cyclists, although there can occasionally be conflicts between them. These run-ins are largely a result of the sub-standard cycle network in Scotland that forces cyclists to compete with cars for space on Scotland’s roads, particularly in busy city centres.It will only be when a properly planned and budgeted cycle network is implemented, similar to those in major European cities, that we will see a sustained drop in these types of accidents, many of which are fatal.

Motorists should of course carry a responsibility to ensure they drive in a manner which does not cause injury. There have been instances in the past where drivers have quite rightly faced criminal prosecutions for their negligent actions.

This potential criminal sanction does, and should still remain, the main deterrent for motorists. However, a move to stricter liability in civil cases is highly unlikely by itself to reduce the number of incidents involving cyclists.

Cyclists must also play a key role in maintaining road safety by making themselves visible to motorists and riding with due care and attention.

Only through the combined efforts of all road users, together with significant new investment in a cycle network, will we begin to see a decline in these tragic accidents.

Scott Whyte is a Head of Litigation at personal injury specialists Watermans Solicitors