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EDITIONS
Monday, 8 July, 2002, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Blame it on the driver
Rob Bryden from BBC Two's Marion and Geoff
What did I do wrong?

Blameless drivers may be forced to compensate careless cyclists and pedestrians in road accidents, under new EU plans to shake up the UK's insurance market.
Motorists involved in road accidents which are not their fault may still lose their no claims bonus under new proposals to shake up insurance laws.

Plans drawn up by Brussels mean car drivers would automatically take the rap in any accident, regardless of who was really to blame.

Michael Schumacher
It doesn't matter how good a driver you are
It could mean pedestrians and cyclists receive compensation, even if they were the cause of the accident.

If the plans are enacted, it could also bump up the price of insurance premiums, and there are fears that it could lead some drivers to take their chances and forgo any insurance cover.

Already up to 10% - or 2.5 million - drivers take to the road illegally, without any cover, says the RAC Foundation.

Harmonisation

"The extra burden could tip more hard-pressed motorists over the edge, into not getting insured," said RAC spokesman Edmund King.

The proposal, drawn up by the European Commission, is part of an effort to harmonise motor insurance laws across the EU.

Road traffic victims
Pedestrians killed in 2001: 823
Cyclists killed in 2001: 138
It makes the point that "while pedestrians and cyclists may be the cause of some accidents, motor vehicles cause most accidents".

Yet this has also been challenged recently.

New research by the RAC shows more than a third of adult pedestrians killed on the UK's roads each year have an alcohol level over the legal limit for driving.

The incidence of alcohol among fatally injured adult pedestrians has been increasing in recent years.

'No fault liability'

Currently, if a pedal cyclist or pedestrian has an accident with a motorist, liability rests with the one who was at fault.

Breathalyser
Drunk pedestrians are frequently road accident victims
The new proposals would effectively put an end to any dispute, since the motorist would always be judged liable.

The principle is known as "no fault liability".

Road accident expert, Roger Thorn QC, said the idea has been floated in the UK for 20 years.

"It's true that motor vehicles cause more accidents than pedestrians and cyclists. But there seems to me to be a terrific hole in the plan," says Mr Thorn, author of a Practical Guide to Road Traffic Claims.

Unfair, say cyclists

"The fact is you can never account for the drunken man who stumbles out of a pub in a poorly lit street, wearing dark clothing, and walks into the line of a passing car."

But criticism of the plan is not confined to drivers. Although cyclists have everything to gain from the proposal, some of those commenting on an online discussion board, called the idea unfair.

Stunt cyclist
Reckless cyclists will have the advantage
"That's a bit crap for people like the woman I smashed into on my road bike whilst trying to bunny hop it off a curb in rush hour traffic. I wouldn't have had to cough up 250 and they'd have had to pay for my new bike," said one contributor to the Singletrackworld.com site.

The Association of British Insurers confirmed that, if the plans were enacted, a faultless driver could still end up with a claim on their insurance record.

But insurance companies may choose not to apply these rules, said Jo Dagustun, of ABI's motor section.

The proposal is currently in the committee stage of the European Parliament and is expected to come before the full parliament in November.


Your views:

At the London Cycling Campaign, we would welcome the proposals, along with legislation to put prima facie responsibility on the larger vehicle - thus making drivers responsible towards cyclists and pedestrians, and cyclists prima facie responsible towards pedestrians.

The EU have got it right - motorists should be responsible - they are the cause of more than 3,500 deaths each year in the UK, and a change in the way their insurance is set up might encourage them to drive more responsibly - cutting their speed for example. Research shows 66% of drivers admit they speed, and that speed is a cause in the majority of road crashes.
Peter Lewis
Director, London Cycling Campaign

Anything that will make motorists more aware of cyclists and pedestrians can only be a good thing. Most vehicle drivers treat vulnerable road users no better than animals.
Charlie, UK

Yes, this is the practice in Holland and it works very well. Motorists have to be made more aware of cyclists on the roads. The power and speed of the car driver over the vulnerable cyclist has to be considered.
Eddie, Ireland

The most shocking fact of all this is the fact that 10% of drivers do not have insurance. Perhaps something should be done to crack down on this before introducing measures that could see this percentage rise.
David Naylor, England

Cyclists and pedestrians should be held liable for their actions.
Mark Charles, UK

As both a serious road cyclist and a car driver I find this idea pretty disgusting. Taking the comment made by one cyclist "whilst bunnyhopping off a kerb in rush hour traffic", it is the reckless cyclist that causes other cyclists to get a bad name. Motorists never remember the good cyclists they only remember the bad ones! Why should I pay for the reckless "bunnyhoppers"!
Mat, United Kingdom

Maybe it is time that Cyclists had compulsory Third Party Insurance?
John Morgan, England

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