War on Britain's Roads

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I appreciate the footage was sensationalist and intended to shock, but I could not believe the footage I was seeing,  the near misses as well as the actual accidents themselves.  I don't think I'll ever forget the image of the cyclist weaving through traffic and then seemingly getting squashed between a double decker bus and van as he tried to squeeze through the middle. Fortunately, for him all was well.... this time.
As a car driver I am one of the millions who use our roads and try to be courteous to all I encounter.  I try to "look once, look twice, think bike" and to look left before right when I get to junctions. I can not imagine either myself or anyone I know getting so enraged that you would either get out of your vehicle or indeed as a cyclist confront a fellow road user;  let alone assault them.

Unfortunately as a personal injury lawyer I have seen first hand the results of a momentary loss of concentration and the life changing consequences of a split second decision.  Although as a vehicle driver you can get frustrated by cyclists, you need to remember you are driving an extremely heavy lump of metal at significant speed.  If you hit a cyclist; who is going to come off worse?

In my years I have dealt with many cycling accidents.  In fact, the documentary was all the more poignant because I recently settled a case for a young male cyclist who was  dragged under the wheels of a cement lorry that had turned left at traffic lights without indicating.   My client was conscious as he was dragged along the road under the wheels and clearly remembers looking up at people on the pavement as he was dragged passed.  The lorry driver only stopped when people jumped in front of him waving their arms and shouting.

This client was fortunate.  He survived and made a really remarkable physical recovery although the psychological impact resulted in a long term relationship breakdown and issues at work. A colleague acted for a child whose Mother wasn't so lucky.  She was tragically killed in the same circumstances when she was crushed between a lorry and a road barrier. 
The cycle helmet camera footage was useful at showing what occurs on our roads.  I was struck by the poor driving of car users and also the bad behaviour of cyclists who jumped red lights, were seemingly oblivious to others by wearing their headphones and not wearing helmets. I am currently acting for a female cyclist who was knocked off her bicycle by a motorist who did not give her enough room and the caravan struck her.  She was wearing a helmet but had no camera.  I took a statement from her husband and was struck by information he gave about how this had impacted on their daughters.  The children would count the number of cyclists who were not wearing helmets on every car journey.  He described how the children got angry and called them "organ donors".  A few months have now passed and their Mum is making excellent progress.  The girls still count the cyclists but now just refer to them as "nutters".

This story really struck me.  The children did not see the accident, nor come upon the accident but obviously clearly remember seeing her in hospital.   They knew their Mum was wearing a cycle helmet.   However, this has deeply effected them both and they are obviously now acutely aware of the risks to cyclists on our roads.

I think I am in favour of cyclists wearing helmet cameras provided they are not used to antagonise other road users.  In my experience no one goes out looking to be involved in an accident.  The camera's may help prove an accident, secure a prosecution but for me, more importantly, it means cyclists are wearing helmets and this is the best way to ensure head protection if you are involved in an accident.

I would also like to praise the actions of Cynthia, whose daughter Alex was killed by a cement lorry.  Her determination has lead to advances in driver training and lorry safety within the company who caused her daughters death, but I think she summed it up beautifully when she said "it certainly is a competitive space when actually it needs to be a cooperative space we all have responsibilities".

The program stated that there were 107 fatalities on our roads last year.   For me, that's too many.  If you didn't see the program last night, I strongly recommend you watch it on BBC iplayer. I hope it improves all driving on our roads!

Claire Howard


Personal Injury team 

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