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Wanton and furious driving – as unacceptable today as it was in 1861

15th September 2017

In this column and elsewhere we have previously written about the legal duty of care owed by road users to each other – be they drivers, cyclists or pedestrians.

In November last year, national bicycle charity UK Cycling published figures confirming that 98 per cent of all pedestrian deaths or serious injuries between 2005 and 2015 were caused by motorists and, during this period, 852 pedestrians were killed or seriously injured by cyclists. This may represent a tiny fraction of the total, but it is a statistic ofhttps://www.georgeide.co.uk/personal-injury-claims/ great concern nonetheless.

Of course, if you have been involved in an accident caused by the carelessness or worse of a fellow road user you are entitled to seek compensation for your injuries and losses, and many people do just that. But, in appropriate cases, the interests of justice also demand that criminal prosecutions are pursued.

Charlie Alliston, a cyclist who killed a pedestrian while riding a bike lacking front brakes at 18 miles per hour on a central London road, was recently convicted of ‘wanton or furious driving’, a 19th century offence originally relating to horse-drawn carriages. During his trial, expert evidence confirmed front brakes would have enabled a cyclist to stop in time to avoid the accident.

The victim’s family is now calling for English criminal law to be reviewed in order to bring penalties for cyclists into line with those imposed on motorists, and certainly it seems there is a debate to be had. A dangerous motorist who causes grievous bodily harm faces a maximum of five years in prison – there is no equivalent modern offence relating to cyclists. So although it could be argued a law forbidding ‘wanton or furious driving’ belongs to a bygone age and is no longer fit for purpose, Mr Alliston’s case seems to show that it works in practice and that, if convicted, reckless cyclists could face up to two years in prison.

As a personal injury lawyer and a keen cyclist, I am only too aware that bicycles as well as motor vehicles can cause serious injury – we all have a duty to proceed with care and to look out for each other.

If you have been affected by an road traffic accident that was not your fault or would like to know more about how our specialist personal injury solicitors could help, call the George Ide team on 01243 786668 or email us at info@georgeide.co.uk.

Paul Fretwell. Partner, personal injury department



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