Road Traffic Accidents: Accidents not crimes

A few weeks ago I noted the slight rise in road deaths in NI during 2013. I also noted the worrying tendency to regard all accidents as someone’s fault: often criminally someone’s fault. Hence the inappropriate change in routine terminology from Road Traffic Accident to Road Traffic Collision.

A couple of tragic cases have recently pointed to the overenthusiasm of the authorities to prosecute those involved in accidents and in one case the good sense of the general public (and amazingly a judge).

In East Yorkshire in February 2013, Jennie Stone pulled out of a line of cars to overtake a lorry. Unfortunately by freak chance her sister Rosie-Ann pulled out at the same time further up the line. This resulted in Jennie Stone’s car hitting a tree and her death. The Crown Prosecution Service decided to prosecute her.

The prosecution barrister outlined the “evidence” against her:

“admitted she did not check over her shoulder before pulling out and had not adjusted her door mirrors ever since she bought her car a month before”.
He added: “The defendant, quite simply, had not looked behind her before she began her manoeuvre.”

Even if the prosecution version of events were wholly accurate this sounds much more like momentary inattentiveness and a tragic accident rather than criminal liability.

To defend herself this unfortunate young woman then had to describe her sister as a “speed demon” which although no doubt true feels like being forced to speak ill of the dead (and a relative) to defend herself.

Fortunately the jury had the good sense to find her entirely innocent and the judge subsequently revealed that:

“Before the start of the case, I expressed concern with the Crown Prosecution Service that it was not in the public interest to have a trial.
“The CPS was consistent saying that it was. It was their decision, not mine.”

Rather pathetically the CPS tried to justify their decision to prosecute:

“Weighing up all the considerations we concluded that, on balance, the public interest factors tending towards prosecution, outweighed those tending against and that it was in the public interest to charge Rosie-Ann Stone and for the court to decide on her culpability.”

Northern Ireland is unfortunately far from immune to such nonsense: though our PPS seem recently to have given in to good sense and true justice slightly earlier in the process (though longer in terms of chronology).

On the 15th April 2011 56 year old Saintfield man Michael Caulfield was killed at the junction of Annadale Embankment and the Saintfield Road when his bicycle was in collision with a lorry. The driver of the lorry 52 year old James Thompson from Tandragee was charged with causing death by dangerous driving. This was downgraded to causing death by careless driving. The incident was reported on the “Road Justice” cycling charity website. However, after the jury had been sworn in on the 13th of January 2014 (nearly three years later) the PPS decided that it would offer no evidence and Mr. Thompson was found innocent.

Mr. Thompson clearly had his liberty threatened for 3 years because of an accident. (From the BBC)

The lorry driver said he found it “nerve-wracking” to be standing in the dock of a court, with a jury having been sworn in, adding that he was not expecting the “last minute” decision that spared him from facing a full trial.

“Many a time I wished I could, but I had no power to change the outcome of that accident and unfortunately, people’s lives were going to be changed forever”
“The Director of Public Prosecutions had a third look at the evidence and realised that there was no way they could charge me with anything. Basically there was no evidence at all whatsoever,”
Mr. Thompson said.

Clearly there are collisions where someone is criminally at fault. However, there seems now almost a presumption that if an accident occurs someone must be at fault and if it is a serious accident someone must be criminally at fault. Possibly these two recent legal debacles which seem travesties of justice will prompt a rethink in the prosecution of accidents and maybe even a return to recognition that there are such things as Road Traffic Accidents.

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  • Barney

    You cannot decide which laws you would like to obey in a democracy and the courts are the place to test the evidence.

    I cycle every day and know that these collisions are not accidents.

  • JoeHas

    Good article Turgon, your points are well made but I’m unconvinced that legal systems are going too far to apportion blame. While any driver can make a mistake, negligence is still too common. Being able to drive is licensed and carefully regulated because it is so dangerous. Drivers are fully aware of their obligations while on the road and the consequences of carelessness.

    Prosecutions are about more than punishing individuals, they are also about public interest (difficult to define but in legal cases probably closely aligned with public policy) and about setting an example. For the most part I welcome prosecutions and would like to see tougher sentences for those who do cause accidents. I also welcome acquittals where the court decides that is warranted.

  • Barney

    A prosecution in the example (in England) that turgid gave was clearly in the public interest. The number of people pulling into or cutting across the inside lane without looking is shocking. It’s bad when driving but terrifying when cycling, edited to avoid potential libel

  • Turgon

    I also cycle regularly. However, that is irrelevant. Mr. Thompson has been found innocent. The accident in which Mr. Caulfield died was therefore an accident. To suggest otherwise is either to insult the memory of Mr. Caulfield (which would be extremely distasteful and almost certainly inaccurate – I trust you are not doing so) or else to libel Mr. Thompson. The same is true of Ms. Stone.

    Be careful with what you write.

  • Barney

    Why would you censor posts?

    There was nothing libellous, potential or otherwise, in what I wrote. To suggest otherwise is a disgrace which is compounded by a pathetic attempt to suggest I was disrespecting the dead cyclist or the driver.

    Instead of accusing me of libel perhaps you could answer why you would like to choose which laws you follow and which you would like to ignore.

    If you would like everyone to agree with your frankly ridiculous theory that’s grand.

  • Turgon

    You claimed a crime had been committed when a jury had found that that was untrue. To claim someone committed a crime when they manifestly did not (and have been found by a court of law to be innocent) is libellous.

    By all means talk in general terms but in the cases of Ms. Stone and Ms. Stone and the case of Mr. Thompson and Mr. Caulfield no crimes were committed. To claim anything else is potentially libellous.

    Now point to the law or laws you feel I am suggesting not be followed?

    I am pointing out that not every Road Traffic Collision is a crime: many are accidents which involve no fault on any side. That applies to cars, lorries, bicylces, horses etc. etc. Hence, the use of the term Road Traffic Accident.

  • Son of Strongbow

    The word ‘criminal’ of course comes loaded with pejorative overtones. Motoring offences are by statute criminal offences and being found guilty of an offence such as Careless Driving, defined as ‘driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users’ results in a criminal conviction. Or in other words makes one a criminal.

    I expect in common with much criminal behaviour decisions to prosecute will have much to do with the outcomes of the behaviour. So for example a driver observed pulling out of a side road that causes another road user on the main road to brake hard may get a roadside police advice and warning.

    The same errant driver pulling out into the path of another car that results in a collision may be reported for prosecution.

    Now I ride a motorbike and it has made me think about my driving style when I’m behind the wheel of my car. I couldn’t count the number of times when on the bike that I’ve had cars pull into my path (thankfully only once resulting in me ending up on my ar*e, uninjured, on the road and when I gathered myself the offending driver’s only excuse was that he ‘didn’t see me’).

    Now it can be argued that a moment’s inattention does not make one a criminal, although the law says that it can, but in the context of driving on the public road the importance of ‘due care’ needs to be underlined by strong sanctions.

    If part of the sanctions package includes the’shame’ of a criminal conviction, of becoming a criminal, given the potential for harm that exists on the road it doesn’t seem to extreme an approach to me.

  • Barney

    I did not state that a crime had been committed. I said that a prosecution in the English case was clearly in the public interest because the number of collisions caused by people moving into or cutting across the inside lane was huge.

    A prosecution where the woman was found not guilty was in my opinion clearly in the public interest I gave no opinion on the judgment on either case.

    In a previous thread you wrote
    “One of the recent changes has been from describing Road Traffic Accidents to Road Traffic Collisions. The suggestion is that very few are accidents but are almost all because of someone’s error. That may be true but the list of trivial errors that can result in a collision is so long that we all commit them practically every time we get into a car.”

    So it’s true that very few collisions are the result of a genuine accident but you don’t care, a trivial error resulting in the death of an individual is excusable and there should be no prosecution.

    Turgon wrote
    “Clearly going too fast is one of the major problems but it is really speed in the wrong place often combined with misfortune, which causes collisions.”

    Let me get this right, you would like to be able to drive at excessive speed in a place that you decide is the right place to drive at excessive speed.

  • Turgon

    Nowhere above did I advocate exceeding the speed limit. Try to answer what I said rather than what you wish I had said in order to attack me.

    Indeed my point being that 60mph is absolutely fine outside towns in some circumstances (70 on motorways). However, there are roads where 60mph though legal would be far too fast (twisty B roads). Equally there are road / weather conditions during which places where 60mph would normally be fine but (because of the conditions) it becomes much too fast.

    There are also times when 60mph is fine in good conditions but other times when it is too fast even in good conditions. The best example I can think of is Groggan Primary School where the 60mph limit applies and the road is well sighted. Hence, at 7pm on a July Saturday evening 60mph is fine. At 3pm on a Friday in June it is anything but.

  • Barney

    SOS wrote
    “Didn’t see you”

    Road users are responsible for their actions the moment they take to the roads, pathetic excuses just don’t cut it.

  • Barney

    I agree
    60 mph doesn’t mean you must go at 60
    The term due care and attention is used for a reason.

    However earlier You said
    “it is really speed in the wrong place often combined with misfortune, which causes collisions.”
    Which is different to what you are now saying.

  • Turgon

    No its not: you either misunderstand or misrepresent.

    The point is that the speed in the wrong place (on the corner on the minor road) is more of a problem than the speed itself. 55 on a tight corner is too fast. 60 on a straight road is not.

    Misfortune is also vitally important. Not knowing how sharp the sharp bend is; oil on the road etc. Hence, in my earlier blog the point that improving roads and car road holding, braking etc. and car passive safety (air bags etc.) are vital in understanding the reduction in RTA deaths.

    Safety engineering is even of some use in bicycles. The bike I mainly use on the road has disc brakes which are so vastly superior to the hub brakes I had as a student. Admittedly I also have a fixed gear silly bike (mid life crisis for cyclist).

  • sherdy

    Cyclists are not catered for in this country.
    And when cycling on a main road with a driver coming out of a side road, I have experience of the driver looking, seeing me clearly, and pulling out in front of me. They know that if there is a collision they will not be hurt.
    Buses give no consideration whatever to cyclists. Regularly when overtaking a stopped bus the driver will see you in his rear view mirror, flash his trafficators and pull out, leaving you badly exposed in the middle of the road with vehicles coming up behind you, provided you have been quick enough to avoid the bus in the first place.
    Cycle lanes were brought in to keep cyclists safe – rubbish. Some lanes in the city start and stop without any apparent reason, and drivers routinely park on these lanes. Has anyone ever been fined for such parking.
    Some cycle lanes are on the footpath, with a white line separating cyclists from pedestrians. But pedestrians will most times ignore the restriction and will not see a cyclist coming up behind them. Should it be a parent with a toddler or two, responsibility seems to lie totally with the cyclist to try to anticipate any sudden sideways movements of the children.
    Some people advocate using the Lagan towpath or the coastal path from Whiteabbey to Belfast. I have used them both – once – and never again.
    Doggie owners let their charges off the leash and the cyclist is under constant threat of attack, sometimes by quite large, vicious beasts.
    And if a group of pedestrians are spread across the path, walking at a leisurely pace, it is rare indeed that they will move to the side to allow you to pass.
    I used to ride a motorcycle until I was knocked off once too often, by drivers with the stock excuse: ‘But I didn’t see you’.
    Driver training in this country is very basic – just enough to get you on the road – but there should be compulsory follow-up lessons in real-life driving situations to make you a much safer, thoughtful person.

  • babyface finlayson

    A car is a lethal weapon. Failing to check before overtaking is like playing russian roulette with a loaded gun.
    Perhaps the judges concerns in the case you mention were influenced by the relationship between the two women. If it had been a young man driving like that it may have been different.
    An accident is a tyre blowing out causing you to swerve into another car. Not driving with due care is dangerously negligent.

  • aquifer

    Vehicles move and collisions happen because someone is deliberately pressing down with their right foot.

    For a lot of the years of the ‘troubles’ more people died on the roads than from bomb and gunshot. So I should be less surprised at this item.

    Vehicles are always potentially lethal. People are the cause of collisions and death. That is why there is a highway code and a lot of law around conduct on the roads.

    It is not in the public interest to promote impunity, because even less care would be taken and then more people would be killed and injured.

    Though with political leaders who have made careers out of excusing bad behaviour, maybe we should also expect dangerous driving to be celebrated, as a kind of parity of esteem thing.

  • Turgon

    babyface finlayson,
    The problem with that argument is that changing the channel on the car radio; stopping the children fighting; sneezing; almost anything (perfectly legal but unlucky) can cause an accident.

    As I said on the last thread it has been suggested that driving should be like a surgeon operating or a pilot flying a plane. Indeed in a way it is equally as dangerous. However, neither the surgeon nor the pilot need utterly concentrate all the time. The points where complete concentration is required are relatively predictable. In driving they are not. It is simply impossible to concentrate 100% during the whole process of driving. Hence the concept of momentary inattentiveness.

    Your point about cycle lanes is well made. However, spare a thought for the bus drivers: they have to keep to impossible timetables. The way forward is to make cycle paths separate from roads and from pavements. Furthermore on shared paths cyclists need to show consideration. One cannot expect to go flat out along the likes of the Comber Greenway on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

    Segregating vehicles, bikes and people is the way forward: we in NI should be good at segregating ;>)

    Part of the point of this thread and the previous one has been to point out that accidents do happen and that road safety is not an either or. It is both care in driving and engineering. That means that car drivers (and even those “into” cars) and safety campaigners should be seen as mutually supportive not antagonistic.

    Cars are now much safer for their occupants but increasingly for those whom they could hit. Pedestrian safety is now part of Euro NCAP (car safety standards) which (for example) is why new BMWs have slightly high looking bonnets: it is to ensure than a pedestrian thrown onto the bonnet has less chance of being injured by the engine and suspension components under the bonnet.

    Lorries are hopefully going to be redesigned to be slightly larger with more cyclist and pedestrian friendly cabs but that will require a change in European legislation.

    In the long term self driving cars which will be very difficult to crash may be the final solution. Already Mercedes has brake assist whereby if the computer senses a likely accident it puts the brakes on hard. Studies have shown that people brake too little even in emergencies.

    This is the origin of the hopes for zero road deaths. It is really mainly about engineering (of roads and vehicles). Unfortunately certain road safety campaigners and the police seem to have hijacked it to an extent to push their agenda about all RTAs being someone’s fault which is wilfully missing the point.

    I do not deny that there is a car culture in NI (similar in all rural part of the British Isles) which is problematic in that all too often it lauds excess speed and idiotic on road driving but I think the reaction to it is at times counterproductive.

  • sherdy

    Turgon, – Yes, bus drivers have tight schedules, but should they continually put the safety of others at risk?
    I would certainly not suggest flat-out riding along any combined pedestrian/cycling areas. Separation of traffic is important, but on the Belfast-Carryduff road there is a cycling strip on part of the footpath which passes houses with driveways shield by walls and hedges. A driver exiting his home would have to come out into the path of any unfortunate cyclist before he could see traffic coming along the road – crazy.

    And another pet hate is in the city centre, on footpaths and pedestrianised areas where cycling is permitted (a popular area for police cyclists) – totally crazy?

    What imbecile ever thought these mixes of traffic could ever be a safe idea?

  • babyface finlayson

    “almost anything (perfectly legal but unlucky) can cause an accident.”
    But that is what courts are for surely, to determine the degree of negligence. If it is in your hands to control it,checking your mirrors for example, then you are being negligent, fighting children, well arguably that is your responsibility too. Sneezing I admit I don’t know.
    But I agree about the segregation of different forms of traffic. Bikes should not be fighting for space with buses and trucks.

  • Barney

    Turgon edited his post to write
    Nowhere above did I advocate exceeding the speed limit. Try to answer what I said rather than what you wish I had said in order to attack me.”
    You did suggest that your discretion in deciding the speed you drove at should override any decision to prosecute hence my reference to “due care and attention”. You seem to want to ignore this piece of legislation. The same can be said about the ridiculous concept of momentary inattentiveness which can leave a child without a parent.

    The moment one takes to the road one is 100% responsible for ones actions. A perfect example of an accident was aptly described by babyface, any prosecution in those circumstances would be unfair. Changing the CD resulting in death is not only unlucky it’s also criminally negligent.

    I’m not attacking you, I questioned why you censored my perfectly reasonable post and attempted to link me to somehow disrespecting the dead.

    As we cannot edit but you can I may add that cycling has everything to do with this issue.

    Almost all cyclists ride in the inside lane where they are subject to the most disgraceful inattentive driving especially during the rush hours. I can’t count the times I have been forced to stop or swerve by people moving into the inside lane without looking, or drivers trying to push past in the same lane. SOS is correct here they all think the near death was a momentary lapse of concentration.

    Your theory or campaign to excuse the inexcusable is plain wrong.

  • Turgon

    I edited my post rather than bother to do two posts: it helps stop endless cross posting which makes the flow difficult to understand. Nowhere have I advocated breaking the speed limit. I did advocate discretion in speed to say that discretion should result in lower not higher speeds than the speed limits at appropriate times.

    I censored your post because you tried to say that in the examples I had in the opening post crimes had been committed. Since in both the examples the people were found innocent there was no crime. To claim that someone committed a crime opened you and Mick (as site owner and maybe even me) to possible libel. We always remove potential libel. The only alternative reading of your comments would have been that you believed the deceased were committing crime which I regard as distasteful in this context.

    I have not excused anything inexcusable. I am trying to point out that not all collisions are someone’s fault and they are certainly not all criminal actions. Accidents happen that is just life. It appears that the PPS here and the jury in Yorkshire have exactly the same view.

    Criminal sanctions should be available when appropriate but it must be noted that the vast reduction in road deaths over the last 40 years despite the doubling of traffic volumes has little to do with enforcement and a great deal to do with engineering.

    Babyface Finlayson (yes Barney I have edited again to avoid multiple posts as I decided to deal with your comment first – and to fix some typos)
    I agree. My concern is that once there is a decision to prosecute the theory of innocent until proven guilty becomes a bit fuzzy and people feel that an RTA / C must mean someone is criminally at fault. I fear the bar to conviction becomes perceived as a bit lower in RTA / Cs where people have died. Furthermore the scandalous length of time (3 years) between the Ormeau Road accident (for accident it was) and the dropping of the prosecution was unacceptable.

  • Turgon

    I will cross post rather than edit to give a further example

    Let us suppose a person with epilepsy suffers a fit at the wheel. Now if they have a history of this they are potentially criminally liable. However, if this is a first event or they have had no events for several years they are not meant to be liable. I trust you would see that as an accident even if someone was killed or injured.

  • Neil

    A lack of intent – an accident – doesn’t mean no one is at fault. If one of my kids is acting the lig, and smacks my other kid in the mouth, by accident, it’s still his fault. I’d be curious to hear of an example of a collision that isn’t someone’s fault – not saying no such examples exist, they just don’t occur to me. Certainly the severity of the offence committed can be negligible, and those people shouldn’t be prosecuted. But it’s always someone’s fault, or so it seem to me, and in insurance terms fault is a necessity.

  • tommy15


    Road traffic collisions are not accidents. Do you prefer fatalism or rationalism?

  • Neil

    However, if this is a first event or they have had no events for several years they are not meant to be liable.

    They are at fault sadly. They are liable for all costs incurred in that accident. They obviously shouldn’t be prosecuted for any crime, but they are liable.

  • Turgon

    I prefer minimising deaths. Hence, I am rather fond of engineering solutions. Incidentally what about the tyre blow out example. Is that not an accident?

    That is sort of true but whataboutery is entirely appropriate here as your example involves someone doing something foolish in order to cause the accident. As such this recent example is illustrative:

    The bus driver who had a first blackout and crashed his bus resulting in 30 injuries. He then had a further blackout and was redeployed as a cleaner. He got compensation for unfair dismissal. What is most relevant to this discussion, however, is that there was no hint of fault despite the injuries.

  • BluesJazz

    Just as an aside, the reason I didn’t get my dog licensed is because if it caused a road accident I would be liable for costs.
    If it’s not licensed, you cannot be held liable. Simple.

    Badgers have caused road ‘accidents’. Who is to blame?

    Black ice? A killer. But an ‘act of God’ so to speak.

  • Neil

    Reckon you need to draw a line between criminal and insurance or financial liability. Just for clarity. The bus driver was in insurance terms liable, but it’s a not at fault accident.

  • Turgon

    That looks pretty reasonable re the bus episode. In the opening post examples, however, it is difficult to see who was insurance terms liable. I do worry greatly that once there have been injuries all too often insurance type liability (and there are multiple problems there) becomes criminal liability guilty until proven innocent rather than the correct way round.

  • Comrade Stalin


    I use the cycle path between Whiteabbey and Belfast quite regularly. I find that if I alert pedestrians that I am coming up behind them they will generally be quite happy to get out of the way. Not sure what you mean about “vicous beasts”; when I have had a problem with a dog, it’s usually been a tiny yappy thing trying to get under my front wheel. I find yelling “STOP” as loudly as possible at the dog scares it off.

    Cyclists do not, of course, own these parks and walkways and a modicum of mutual respect is required. I moderate my speed through Hazelbank Park for that reason.

  • Comrade Stalin

    But you are right, the cycle routes painted on the road in the city centre are ridiculous. In some cases they are simply impossible; in one particular case, behind the city hall, they are actually illegal.

  • Barney

    Turgon you edited your post after I had posted so the chronology is strange to say the least.

    With reference to the censorship, I did not libel anyone nor did I say that crimes had been committed in those two specific cases, to say so is wrong and entirely dishonest. It is also a disgraceful and dishonest slur to say that I was disrespecting the dead.

    You censored my insignificant post for reasons known only to you it’s not a big deal but that is the nature of the questionable moderation here. For example it’s perfectly reasonable for a moderator on Sluggerotoole to slander the majority of nationalist voters in the six counties. Describing most nationalist voters as morally compromised is a disgraceful thing for anyone to say let alone a moderator.

    Your campaign to relax the law and allow all sorts of excuses to be offered in order to absolve careless drivers of blame is inexcusable. Of course not all collisions are the result of criminal negligence no one has said that. When negligence can be demonstrated a prosecution should be instigated then the evidence can be tested.

    A tyre blow out is clearly an accident unless the tyre was unroadworthy worthy, someone having a fit at the wheel is not liable unless they concealed a pre existing condition that required disclosure. The law is rather good on these points, as we become a more litigious people, the law responds.

    When I am on my bike or in the car I am responsible for my actions including my inattentiveness other people are not the problem.

  • Turgon

    You post looked very like claiming that a crime had been committed in the OP cases. That is self evidently not true and leaves you (and Mick and possibly me) open to accusations libel. Hence, my decision to remove it. The only way it would not have been libel would had been if you had been claiming the deceased had committed a crime. That would have had to be your defence had someone brought a libel action. The deceased cannot sue for libel. As such your own defence would have been insulting the dead. That would have been distasteful.

    Removing the offending part removed the danger to you and the site.

  • babyface finlayson

    “My concern is that once there is a decision to prosecute the theory of innocent until proven guilty becomes a bit fuzzy and people feel that an RTA / C must mean someone is criminally at fault”
    That could be said of other types of prosecution too, in rape cases for example.
    I’m not entirely clear what you are calling for here. I presume you do not want to see cases of negligence dismissed as mere accidents. If there is a suggestion of negligence leading to death then surely it would have to be tested in court as in the case you cite?
    By the way I heard a news item about self driving cars last week. Is it google developing them? Are they powered by a search engine?
    I wonder how many of us really want to give up the experience of control and pleasures associated with driving.

  • cynic2

    The key issue is why do these cases take so long?

    Key answers? PPS inefficiency and perhaps lawyers fees

  • Mick Fealty


    1, send me a copy of the removed text to the editor at Slugger address and I’ll take a view on whether to replace it or not. I would also like to hear (privately mind) why you think it was censorship to remove that particular statement. Slugger cannot and will not sustain breaches of the law, free speech is not licence to say whatever you want in any circumstance.

    2, you will be getting a Yellow Card for the use of ‘turgid’ in your first post. I would not normally do that, but given what’s happened afterwards take it as a gentle shot across the bow. You’re a valued member of the community here in good standing so there’s NO implicit threat of escalating it to a red as there might be with some others I can think of.

    3, more than 50% of this thread is an off topic argy bargy between you and Turgon. I intend to strip all of that out at the end of the afternoon since it’s wildly off topic. I’d prefer in future that all appeals be addressed to me in future. If it’s a weekend I cannot promise to act quickly but I will act.

    Please NB: Bloggers can you please card offenders first (make it a Red if they are persistent). They can always talk to me afterwards if they think you’ve been unfair.

  • Turgon

    Thanks for above and can I add if I removed Barney’s comment in error I apologise unreservedly. I am simply very aware of the dangers of libel. I am not a lawyer and I can easily get it wrong. However, I did what I did from honourable motives hoping to protect both the site and Barney.

  • Barney

    I am aware of the circularity in arguing for or against censorship, I’m also aware of the dangers of shouting fire in a packed theatre and all the other well rehearsed arguments for freedom of speech.

    I don’t screen shot my posts so can’t prove one way or the other which words I typed. Removing part of a trivial post was not a problem writing that it was libellous and suggesting that I had disrespected the dead was in my opinion censorship Turgon seemed to agree as he also described his actions as censorship ( his post at 10.13).

  • tommy15

    Below are the reasons PSNI give for casualty reduction

    “The last forty years have seen huge improvements in vehicle safety, trauma care, seat belt and child car seat legislation as well as targeted speed reduction, re-engineering and safety cameras”

    If you take a look at the NI travel statistics you will see that in NI sustainable travel modes are suppressed compared to other northern European countries our streets and roads have become unpleasant unsafe places to walk and cycle.

    The number of collisions reported to the Police 2003 – 2012 range between 5,500 and just over 6,000 per annum. The number of collisions is not reflected in the reduced number of casualties.

    Cycling casualties are increasing. Vulnerable road users carry a disproportionate risk of harm compared to car drivers and passengers.

    Drivers have a duty of care when in charge of moving machinery capable of inflicting death and serious injury on other road users to drive in a manner that can bring the vehicle safely under control following an unexpected event without killing or seriously injuring another road user.
    Can I suggest you read Murder most Foul the Classic analysis of how motorists came to believe they owned the roads

    Can I suggest you walk along a rural road to experience how unpleasant it is to be passed by fast moving vehicles

  • Turgon

    Since I live in the country I am well aware of the issues.

    I agree entirely about rural public transport.

    The major reductions in deaths are largely due to the increasing safety of roads, vehicles etc. indeed. The fact that the reductions in deaths are not paralleled by a reduction in accidents demonstrates that vehicle safety and trauma care are the major causes of these gains.

    Drivers have responsibilities as have pedestrians and cyclists. We all have.

    I am not arguing against your points. I am a cyclist and pedestrian as well as a motorists and I am painfully law abiding.

    I am pointing out that despite all accidents do happen. Comments like “Road traffic collisions are not accidents.” are counter factual. Some are some are not. Indeed often there are people at fault. However, by no means always is someone criminally at fault and sometimes no one is a fault. Accidents can and do happen.

  • tommy15

    Thank you for your courteous response.

    A safe systems approach is at the core of the current NI Road Safety Strategy.
    It is based on a rational approach to collision causation factors.
    “In taking forward the safe systems approach it is important to take account of and
    understand how the human body reacts to and can withstand collisions, and the limits
    of perception and understanding of the multiple demands and tasks of driving before
    error will occur, the impacts that impairing factors and exacerbating factors, such as
    speed, can have. It is also important to understand how and why certain types of
    collision occur and the effect that road design can have in reducing the risk and severity
    of such events.”
    You argue there will always be accidents and forgivable lapses of driver concentration which may or may not result in a KSI collision whereas modern road safety thinking appears to be moving towards the safety standards expected in commercial flights and rail safety.
    In time the law will move from the concept of intent to a more rigorous duty of care

  • Taoiseach

    Collision is neutral term which covers incidents which were entirely accidental and ones which involved some form of negligence. Most collisions involve some sort of negligent behaviour, whether speeding, drinking, failure to observe. Mightn’t deserve prosecution though.

  • Turgon

    I am glad you bring up the airline and rail industry as in both planes and trains the pilots / drivers actually do not need to concentrate all the time. At times they require 100% concentration at other times they do not.

    When a plane is taking off or landing indeed 100% concentration is required and expected. However, when cruising it is not due to the fact that there is nothing to hit. 100% concentration is not possible and is not expected for a whole plane flight.

    Drving a train requires 100% concentrattion at times but since the train track is predicted to be clear when it is proceding down a standard straight piece of track such concentration is not required. Furthermore attempts are being made to ensure more straight pieces of track. In addition if someone is on the track it is largely their and not the train drivers responsibility to avoid being hit. Train drivers can be at fault for signals passed at danger but equally because their is a recognition of the difficulties inherent in this automated systems are in place to help the drivers.

    Perversly cars (or other road vehicles on roads) present humans with more unpredictable challenges and dangers than planes or trains.

    The real solution is to segregate vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians and also increased driver aids up to and including self driving cars.

    I am not for one moment suggesting people cannot be at fault nor that there are not multiple examples of bad driving every day. However, we need to understand that driving is actually in some ways more difficult and hazardous than anything else we do and as such mistakes and indeed accidents will happen which should not necessarily criminalise the pepretrator. Compassion, common sense and reasonableness must also play a part in al directions.

    I am just a bit worried that after many years when all RTCs were regarded as accidents the pendulum may have swung too far the other way and all events are seen as criminal events. In that light as a cyclist myself I do feel that the likes of the Road Justice website section on prosecutions etc. is too blame and even vengance orientated.

    That said I have been threatened and assualted when cycling in Belfast and to my shame did not bother to take the number plate etc.

    If you are genuninely interetsed (and you seem to be) might I suggest you amazing as it sounds look up Pistonheads the “petrol heads” website.

    Amongst the assorted idiot stuff especially comments you will see that a number of the “car nut” writers are also cyclists. They actually comment on their interest in cycling etc.

    Trying to get cyclists and drivers (and pedestrians) all to think of one another as part of a collective of road users rather than antagonistic groups might well help. Sorry if that sounds hopelessly idealistic but I do worry about the them and us in all this.

    That said this website is fundamentally about them and us in a different context.

    That is very reasonable. I worry though that your last sentence is often lost when someone is killed. It is also the inequity of who gets prosecuted and found guilty.

    I have pointed this out before but I suspect in a given RTC with identical driving my wife (a middle aged, middle class Range Rover driver) would be less likely to be successfully prosecuted than a 19 year old working class kid in an elderly Honda Civic Type R (if they could get insurance for such a thing).