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Community service for driver who hit cyclist from behind at 2am

A man convicted of causing the death of a cyclist by careless driving has walked free from a Scottish court after being handed a sentence of 300 hours community service and a four-year driving ban.

Alastair Dudgeon died after being hit by James Sneddon's Vauxhall Astra at about 2am on January 6, 2013 near the Kincardine Bridge in Fife.

According to The Scotsman's Dave Finlay, the High Court in Edinburgh was told on Monday that Mr Dudgeon, from High Valleyfield, Fife, regularly cycled to and from his work as a baker at a Tesco store in Camelon, on the outskirts of Falkirk.

He sustained a broken neck, rib fractures and internal injuries, including to the aorta — the main artery from the heart — when he was hit from behind by Sneddon.

Sneddon denied the charge of causing death by dangerous driving, and was found guilty of the lesser offence of causing death by careless driving.

One witness told the court that weather conditions were clear and visibility was reasonable even though the riad was not lit.

A police constable estimated he could see the flashing rear light on Dudgeon's bike from about 200 metres away as he drove to the scene.

Prosecuting, advocate depute Bruce Erroch reminded the court that the Highway Code told drivers to give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as when overtaking a car.

He told jurors that if they thought Mr Dudgeon had contributed in some way to his death by not wearing a high-visibility jacket, that was not something that absolved Sneddon. He said what mattered was that the driver should have seen Dudgeon well before the collision and taken steps to avoid him.

Defence counsel Emma Toner said Sneddon had expressed genuine remorse for having been the cause of Dudgeon's family's loss.

Sentencing Sneddon, judge Nigel Morrison said: “The death of Alastair Dudgeon at the age of 51 is a tragedy for his family.”

Mr Dudgeon’s widow was “devastated” by the loss, he said, but he was taking into accoount the lack of aggravating factors such as deliberate course of bad driving, drinking or using a mobile phone.

He noted that Sneddon had been assessed as posing a very low risk of re-offending.

Sneddon's sentence is within the recommended sentencing range (see page 15) for causing death through careless or inconsiderate driving arising from momentary inattention with no aggravating factors.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

36 comments

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rswift [15 posts] 3 years ago
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We live in a fucked up world... 33 months behind bars for making an illegal copy of a film, about driving. None, for actually driving and taking a life?

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notfastenough [3728 posts] 3 years ago
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Anyone know what the speed limit was? 60mph equates to 26.8 metres per second - even if the cyclist was stationary and the car driver doing 60, this equates to nearly 8 seconds in which the flashing rear light was visible (as per the '200 metre' statement by the attending PC). How is it even possible to take your eyes off the road for nearly 8 seconds and expect to not come to grief?

If the limit (and the car driver's speed) was 30mph, and the cyclist travelling in the same direction at 12mph, then he would have more like 25 seconds to see him.

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sean1 [177 posts] 3 years ago
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Mr Sneddon was travelling at 40mph (according to the newspaper report) when the collision occurred so the relative speed of Mr Dudgeon and Mr Sneddon would be about 30mph, and his rear light was visible from 200m.

In which case Mr Sneddon would have had 15 seconds in which to see Mr Dudgeon (assuming the road is mainly straight).

15 seconds is a long time to be not looking where you are going and beyond the "momentary inattention" that careless driving refers to.

In this case the CPS did pursue a charge of dangerous driving, but it was dumbed down by the jury. No doubt they had sympathy for the driver, it could have been them.....

And the judge backs this up with a suitably dumbed down sentence.

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userfriendly [616 posts] 3 years ago
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Once again, the church of the holy motor car prevails. How little regard for human life these people have. Disgusting thugs, the lot of them.

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Jimmy Ray Will [761 posts] 3 years ago
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It's a shame isn't it?

Yes, it could be any one of us, I get that, but actually its not is it? It's not any of us at all, it is very few of us, generally doing something clearly wrong, inattentive or down right stupid.

This needs addressing badly... however having heard magistrate judges attitudes towards drink driving offences, I think there is little chance in the sentencing being toughened up.

The point that needs to be expressed is that on the day you are given your licence, you are being handed the responsibility to not kill anyone in your car... should you fail in that responsibility the punishments will be severe and exceptions not made.

Being careless, being dangerous, does it really matter? Someone died.

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truffy [650 posts] 3 years ago
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userfriendly wrote:

Once again, the church of the holy motor car prevails. How little regard for human life these people have. Disgusting thugs, the lot of them.

Seriously, where the hell do you get that from? A lot of us are motorists as well as cyclists.  14

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userfriendly [616 posts] 3 years ago
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truffy wrote:
userfriendly wrote:

Once again, the church of the holy motor car prevails. How little regard for human life these people have. Disgusting thugs, the lot of them.

Seriously, where the hell do you get that from? A lot of us are motorists as well as cyclists.  14

I'm sorry, were you the judge or a member of the jury? Or why are you so curiously inclined to feel addressed by the "these people" above?

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antonio [1167 posts] 3 years ago
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Proof, if any more needed, that all our protests and petitions are in vain.

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brooksby [2587 posts] 3 years ago
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userfriendly wrote:
truffy wrote:
userfriendly wrote:

Once again, the church of the holy motor car prevails. How little regard for human life these people have. Disgusting thugs, the lot of them.

Seriously, where the hell do you get that from? A lot of us are motorists as well as cyclists.  14

I'm sorry, were you the judge or a member of the jury? Or why are you so curiously inclined to feel addressed by the "these people" above?

To play devils advocate here, I think that truffy was querying the conclusion that someone who kills while driving is automatically a disgusting thug with little regard for human life.

I personally think the bloke was clearly completely and dangerously incompetent and shouldn't be allowed to drive anything more powerful than a large lawnmower for the rest of his life, but we haven't been told that he intentionally drove into the back of the victim, and don't actually know that he is a disgusting thug with little regard for human life, do we?

It sounds more like he is just (probably, IMO, and in no way defending him) a completely and dangerously incompetent fool, whose actions led to someone's death. And, unfortunately, there are way more of them than there are intentionally murderous drivers....

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oozaveared [936 posts] 3 years ago
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[quote=Jimmy

Being careless, being dangerous, does it really matter? Someone died.[/quote]

Well actually it does matter. That's why it is a separate offence. It's two different things. It's why there are different sentences.

The difference is Mens Rea. (state of mind)

Driving without due care is failing to give the task your full attention and in so doing creating a potential danger. You aren't intending to cause a danger or harm you are just failing to drive carefully enough.

Driving dangerously on the other hand is deliberately driving in such a way that you must know what you are doing is dangerous in and of itself.

They can both result in someone being killed. I would imagine that most drivers hand on heart have at times driven without due care. Maybe not for long maybe only occasionally through distraction, or stress or whatever. But it would be a brave person who would say that at not time whatsoever have they driven below the standard required. So, there but for the grace of god go most drivers. This is distinct from the drivers that deliberately drive in a fashion that is inherently dangerous. They aren't just a bit over the speed limit because they weren't paying attention. They knew they were over the limit because they were deliberately trying to go as fast as they could. They didn't cut someone up by mistake because they didn't look closely enough, they deliberately forced their way through a gap knowing full well what they were doing.

I deplore the way in which the CPS are prone to charge dangerous drivers with due care because it is easier to prove. And the reason that I deplore it the most is because there is such a massive difference between being a bit careless and being an automotive thug.

Have a look at the sentencing manual
http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/sentencing_manual/death_by_dangerous_...

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userfriendly [616 posts] 3 years ago
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brooksby wrote:

To play devils advocate here, I think that truffy was querying the conclusion that someone who kills while driving is automatically a disgusting thug with little regard for human life.

I personally think the bloke was clearly completely and dangerously incompetent and shouldn't be allowed to drive anything more powerful than a large lawnmower for the rest of his life, but we haven't been told that he intentionally drove into the back of the victim, and don't actually know that he is a disgusting thug with little regard for human life, do we?

It sounds more like he is just (probably, IMO, and in no way defending him) a completely and dangerously incompetent fool, whose actions led to someone's death. And, unfortunately, there are way more of them than there are intentionally murderous drivers....

That's fair enough. To make it unmistakably clear, as I probably should have done in the first place: I was referring to judge and jury in this case. The sentencing guidelines are a joke already, and seeing that judges go for the absolute low end of even those ridiculous guidelines on a regular basis, for reasons that likely amount to nothing more than 'it could have happened to anyone', 'act of god', is ... well, if not disgusting, what is it then?

It's this self-serving and problem avoidant approach to sentencing clearly guilty drivers that is part of the reason why there is actually a large number of people out there on the roads that think nothing of putting someone at risk to avoid being held up by the fraction of a second it would take to change lane as the highway code unmistakably demands for any sort of overtake manoeuvre.

"It's just a bike!", "I'm a good driver!", "Get off the road!" - sentencing like this one only cements this attitude. Motorists' unbridled progress and the "right to drive" is worth more than a person's life - that is what this sentence is telling us.

And it sickens me.

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wrevilo [108 posts] 3 years ago
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I have only read this story so cannot express full knowledge of this case. I don't argue with the lack of prison time, as this guy is not a danger to society.

Except from behind the wheel of a car. He should have this privilege removed for life for killing Mr Dudgeon, along with a much greater community service sentence in my opinion.

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Paul_C [512 posts] 3 years ago
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there was plenty of space there to put in a cycle lane on each side of the road... instead, the median strip was chevronned off to keep motor vehicles seperated...

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Tom Amos [236 posts] 3 years ago
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Could the cops check his computer to see whether he had ever downloaded or distributed any films? Perhaps they could do this in all similar cases in the future.

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Paul_C [512 posts] 3 years ago
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the bridge in question is in the distance, this is the section of road roughly where it happenned. As you can easily see, there was plenty of space to put in cycle lanes...

http://goo.gl/maps/hA3E0

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brooksby [2587 posts] 3 years ago
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userfriendly wrote:

It's this self-serving and problem avoidant approach to sentencing clearly guilty drivers that is part of the reason why there is actually a large number of people out there on the roads that think nothing of putting someone at risk to avoid being held up by the fraction of a second it would take to change lane as the highway code unmistakably demands for any sort of overtake manoeuvre.

"It's just a bike!", "I'm a good driver!", "Get off the road!" - sentencing like this one only cements this attitude. Motorists' unbridled progress and the "right to drive" is worth more than a person's life - that is what this sentence is telling us.

And it sickens me.

No, it is disgusting, and I completely agree with you.

It is problematic (to be generous) that the courts really seem to be creating an environment where people clearly can get away with causing the death of someone (whether maliciously or by incompetence) to a degree that wouldn't happen if the circumstances were not "the deceased was riding a bicycle, the perpetrator was driving a motor vehicle".

I really don't want to have to use a headcam just to be able to prove what happened if I got knocked off.

I really don't want to have to dress up like a highlighter pen and have more lights'n'reflectors than a christmas tree, just so the person who runs me down can't reasonably say SMIDSY (or if they do, they will look like a total f-ing idiot).

And I really don't want to cycle to and from work knowing that if some impatient a**e in a two-ton SUV gets ticked off, they can run me down from the front, side, or back, at whatever speed, and it still looks like they only *might* get some jail time and *might* have their licence withdrawn.

"Gosh well it could happen to anyone" really isn't a valid excuse for sentencing - fair enough that he has expressed remorse, etc etc, and "it could happen to anyone", but he should have his driving licence withdrawn indefinitely. There are other ways of getting to work, you know...

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Mountainboy [98 posts] 3 years ago
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A sad thing to have happened, sympathy to those involved.

This annoys me though...

'He told jurors that if they thought Mr Dudgeon had contributed in some way to his death by not wearing a high-visibility jacket, that was not something that absolved Sneddon'

Everyone out of a building needs to wear hi-vis now then?

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Das [243 posts] 3 years ago
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Joke!

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Housecathst [603 posts] 3 years ago
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When ever I read about another killer motorist getting away scout free with kill a cyclist, I all ways think of this case

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-25447028

I bet this guy wishes he was in a car that day and then he would have just got a couple of hour community service.

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Jimmy Ray Will [761 posts] 3 years ago
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wrevilo wrote:

I have only read this story so cannot express full knowledge of this case. I don't argue with the lack of prison time, as this guy is not a danger to society.

Except from behind the wheel of a car. He should have this privilege removed for life for killing Mr Dudgeon, along with a much greater community service sentence in my opinion.

I'm never sure about this... on one level I support the premise that having a licence means that you should have a degree of protection from the law, however the other side of it is that to provide a deterrent you need to apply punishments that act as, well an actual deterrent.

Right now, its accepted that people sometimes die on the roads, its no ones fault, just one of those things... that's not really acceptable to me.

To me, not giving custodial sentences frames the severity of these 'crimes' as not very serious... which is not the case.

So I acknowledge that imprisoning these people is a complete waste of a life, however I believe its an unfortunate requirement to set/change public perception.

I would support the permanent loss of licence should someone be convicted of death by careless/dangerous driving. Maybe they could be given a choice... 2 years in the clink, or permanent loss of licence.

Again its this whole privilege over right argument.

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tourdelound [169 posts] 3 years ago
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Shame on our so called British justice system.

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levermonkey [682 posts] 3 years ago
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Quote: "He noted that Sneddon had been assessed as posing a very low risk of re-offending."

There would be even less chance of re-offending if the 'revocation of licence' had been permanent.

For further reading
http://beyondthekerb.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/the-problem-with-good-people/

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Binky [116 posts] 3 years ago
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What the hell!

Quote
"He told jurors that if they thought Mr Dudgeon had contributed in some way to his death by not wearing a high-visibility jacket"

and i am sure that taking a persons license away stops them driving  35

The law is totally messed up, with sentencing! I hope all you cyclist have life insurance.

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oldstrath [856 posts] 3 years ago
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oozaveared wrote:

[quote=Jimmy

Being careless, being dangerous, does it really matter? Someone died.

Well actually it does matter. That's why it is a separate offence. It's two different things. It's why there are different sentences.

The difference is Mens Rea. (state of mind)

Driving without due care is failing to give the task your full attention and in so doing creating a potential danger. You aren't intending to cause a danger or harm you are just failing to drive carefully enough.

Driving dangerously on the other hand is deliberately driving in such a way that you must know what you are doing is dangerous in and of itself.

They can both result in someone being killed. I would imagine that most drivers hand on heart have at times driven without due care. Maybe not for long maybe only occasionally through distraction, or stress or whatever. But it would be a brave person who would say that at not time whatsoever have they driven below the standard required. So, there but for the grace of god go most drivers. This is distinct from the drivers that deliberately drive in a fashion that is inherently dangerous. They aren't just a bit over the speed limit because they weren't paying attention. They knew they were over the limit because they were deliberately trying to go as fast as they could. They didn't cut someone up by mistake because they didn't look closely enough, they deliberately forced their way through a gap knowing full well what they were doing.

I deplore the way in which the CPS are prone to charge dangerous drivers with due care because it is easier to prove. And the reason that I deplore it the most is because there is such a massive difference between being a bit careless and being an automotive thug.

Have a look at the sentencing manual
http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/sentencing_manual/death_by_dangerous_...
To be honest this reads like sophistry to me. Terribly clever, but ultimately meaningless. If someone is genuinely incapable of understanding that being 'a bit impatient', or not looking 'quite all the time' is dangerous they have no business driving a car. And yes, this is a ridiculously high standard to demand, but then the whole idea of allowing fallible humans to attempt to control tonnes of metal travelling at high speeds is frankly pretty ridiculous. And whether drivers fall short of those standards by stupidity, inadvertence or malice, is utterly uninteresting. Whatever the cause they should never be permitted to drive again, and should be punished, if only pour encourager...

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Argos74 [447 posts] 3 years ago
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Not so much worried about the prison sentence, or lack of it (where there are exacerbating factors - being banned already, being off face through drink and/or drugs, yeah, throw away the key). But this driver did show himself to be catastrophically crap at driving, and should lose the privilege of ever being allowed to have another go.

The default position for killing someone whilst driving should be a lifetime ban. This isn't a kneejerk reactionary position. It addresses the needs of justice, issues of criminal jurisprudence, and the dangers caused by careless and dangerous driving.

A lifetime driving ban prevents the offender from carrying out the offence again. It deters other people from putting themselves at risk of carrying out this sort of offence (general deterrence; specific deterrence is kinda irrelevant if a lifetime driving ban is imposed). Rehabilitation? Well, a lifetime of walking, cycling, or using public transport should do the trick there.

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oozaveared [936 posts] 3 years ago
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Jimmy Ray Will wrote:
wrevilo wrote:

I have only read this story so cannot express full knowledge of this case. I don't argue with the lack of prison time, as this guy is not a danger to society.

Except from behind the wheel of a car. He should have this privilege removed for life for killing Mr Dudgeon, along with a much greater community service sentence in my opinion.

Right now, its accepted that people sometimes die on the roads, its no ones fault, just one of those things... that's not really acceptable to me.

To me, not giving custodial sentences frames the severity of these 'crimes' as not very serious... which is not the case.

So I acknowledge that imprisoning these people is a complete waste of a life, however I believe its an unfortunate requirement to set/change public perception.

I would support the permanent loss of licence should someone be convicted of death by careless/dangerous driving. Maybe they could be given a choice... 2 years in the clink, or permanent loss of licence.

Again its this whole privilege over right argument.

I disagree. First off there is a big difference between the crimes of Dangerous Driving and Careless Driving. So I wouldn't band them together. As far as Dangerous driving is concerned I would ensure that it was policed and prosecuted vigorously. And yes very long bans regardless of whether someone was injured or killed (I wouldn't give an 18 year old a life ban I might give a 40 year old one) Certainly 10+ years off the road for Dangerous Driving. If you kill someone doing it then that would attract and additional custodial penalty.

The trouble is when it comes to careless driving where there is no mens rea and no harm caused. In my opinion that should be stiffened up a bit.

What there needs to be is a much more clear distiction between careless driving and dangerous driving. At the moment there is a bit of a continuum at the lower end of DD. That leads the CPS to press the more provable charge. ie CD. I believe that when someone is KSI the charge should be binary. An automatic assumption that they were DD for the purposes of charging thereby forcing the CPS and the police to up their game going in to court. If they can't prove dangerous then CD is still on the charge sheet. But at least they attempt the higher charge.

It will result in more DD convictions and more DD acquittals as well.

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Simmo72 [661 posts] 3 years ago
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He wasn't drunk or on drugs or on a mobile phone, so what the fuck was he doing that prevented him from noticing a large moving object in the road kicking out a bright flashing light. In some ways it is worse, he just wasn't paying attention. Lots of other distractions; changing the radio, reaching for something, not looking - but a shit sentence.

Damn right you shouldn't take into account the wearing of a high vis jacket. How many cars & motorbike are bright yellow, its not a factor if a cyclist has adequate lights.

it does highlight the need to have regular driving retests, not super stringent but to get the crap, incompetent drivers off the roads either for re training or a permanent ban, there are plenty out there. Not sure how we can do the same for crap cyclists though, again there are plenty.

High time we had a large government tv advertising campaign for road behaviour, with tougher sentences. Drive using a mobile - lose your car, simple.

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Eebijeebi [102 posts] 3 years ago
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One or two need to re-read the judge's words to the jury. He was telling them that the cyclist not wearing a hi-vis was no reason to find the driver not guilty of the offence charged.

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Joeinpoole [444 posts] 3 years ago
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Eebijeebi wrote:

One or two need to re-read the judge's words to the jury. He was telling them that the cyclist not wearing a hi-vis was no reason to find the driver not guilty of the offence charged.

You yourself need to re-read the article. It was the prosecutor who said that (to the jury), not the judge.

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shay cycles [400 posts] 3 years ago
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With bans being difficult to enforce we might need a completely new thinking on who can drive what, and on the need for drivers to have licences with them, so that bans could actually be enforced - this is straight off the top of my head so may be totally impractical!

We are about to enter a new regime with VED where there is no need for a disc to be displayed from 1st October because the whether the vehicle is taxed, insured and covered by a current MOT(where applicable) will be found from just the registration plate.

Imagine if the registration plate also linked to those people registered to drive that specific vehicle (and all drivers were required as a condition of maintaining a licence to register to drive only specified vehicles) - there could be exceptions for hire vehicles, PSV and good vehicles where checks on licences before driving are already the norm).

I may be just rambling here; but take away the entitlement to drive everything and the chances of illegal drivers being identified would be much higher. Is there any sense in this?

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