Brenda Mitchell: A liability regime could prevent cyclist deaths

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This week marks the beginning of the Nice Way Code, a government campaign to improve road safety in Scotland by encouraging us all to behave better on the roads.

It’s costing £500,000 and will be led by Scotland’s Transport Minister, Keith Brown. With recent figures from Transport Scotland reporting the deaths of nine cyclists on Scotland’s roads this year so far, and the total number of cyclists killed rising for the fifth year in a row, is it not reasonable to expect more than a few soft words of advice from the minister on the issue of road safety?

I think the time has come for the government to take much tougher action. After all, the government has it in its power to do something far more meaningful and substantive by directing policy and legislative focus – we only have to look at how the Scottish Government led the way with the ban on smoking in public places.

A strict liability regime would have a far greater effect on road safety. It would bring Scotland into line with the majority of Europe – not leaving us lagging behind – and help create a culture of respect amongst all road users. More and more voices are speaking out in favour yet, disappointingly, last month Keith Brown dismissed significantly more cost effective proposals for strict liability in favour of media pizzazz.

I can only comment from my own experience, but as a lawyer I deal with people every day who have been either seriously injured themselves or who have lost a loved one and feel let down by the criminal justice system. Civil Law improvements to protect the vulnerable in road traffic collisions are urgently required and the Scottish Government should reconsider introducing a strict liability regime for road traffic accidents to Scots Civil Law.

If we do this, we would see a much greater, longer lasting impact on the culture amongst drivers, cyclists and pedestrians rather than what can be achieved through a here today, gone today advertising campaign.

• Brenda Mitchell is founder and partner of Cycle Law Scotland