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Inquiry should tackle police anti-cycling prejudice, say campaigners

Transport Committee inquiry will look at traffic law enforcment, including how police handle road crime against cyclists and pedestrians

Concerns over "lingering police prejudices against cyclists" and funding cuts will be among evidence submitted to a parliamentary inquiry into police handling of road crime in the UK.

Road justice campaigners have wholeheartedly welcomed an inquiry into road traffic law enforcement, conducted by the Transport Committee which will look at how government policies to improve road safety are being enforced, including careless and dangerous driving offences.

Campaigners and legal experts say partly thanks to funding cuts police capacity to investigate road crime is severely limited, which can lead to hastily-made conclusions and alter the quality of investigations based on some officers' prejudices. 

- Government review of dangerous driving sentencing currently underway

CTC road safety campaigner Rhia Favero also questioned the effectiveness of awareness courses offered to drivers as an alternative to prosecution.

"For years CTC's Road Justice campaign has been calling for those in power to take notice of the meagre police response to road crime particularly when cyclists and pedestrians are the victims, so the inquiry is welcomed wholeheartedly," said Favero.

"I hope the inquiry will highlight the need for a reversal of the deep cuts to roads policing, which have severely limited police capacity to investigate road crime. I also hope recommendations emerge to tackle the lingering prejudice against cyclists among some police officers, which can lead to quickly formed conclusions about who is at fault in road collisions and has a knock on effect on the quality and depth of police investigations.

"I would also like the inquiry to question the police power to offer awareness courses to drivers as an alternative to prosecution when they have endangered other road users and whether these courses actually raise driving standards or just let drivers off the hook."

Since the lesser offence of careless driving was introduced in 2008, prosecutions for dangerous driving declined dramatically.

Paul Kitson, a solicitor who specialises in cycling injury, told road.cc he welcomed the enquiry, and called the annual UK road death toll of 1,700 per year 'unacceptable'.

He said: "Bad drivers are rarely prosecuted for careless or dangerous driving. This normally only happens if the bad driving results in serious injury and only then if there was strong supporting witness evidence. The police all too often do not put enough of their resources into investigating motoring offences."

Some argue the definitions of careless and dangerous driving are too ambiguous, the first being driving that falls below the minimum acceptable standard expected of a careful and competent driver and the second driving that falls far below that standard. Dangerous driving carries a maximum 14 years jail term, careless just five.

Submissions to the inquiry are requested before October 10 and can be made here

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