A cyclist has called for a new ‘causing serious injury by careless driving’ offence to be introduced after the driver who left her in a coma was handed a £485 fine. Responding to the case, Cycling UK renewed its call for a wider review of traffic offences, warning of the possible unwanted side-effects of merely ‘bolting on new offences’.
Surrey Live reports that Louise Callaghan was left with a brain bleed, a fractured skull and breaks to her collarbone, scapula, elbow and pelvis after she was hit by Matthew McGahan while cycling in Woburn Hill, Addlestone in June 2018.
Her injuries were so serious that she was placed in a medically induced coma for four days and she says she is still suffering the after effects.
McGahan pleaded guilty to careless driving at Guildford Magistrates Court this week and was given a £485 fine and had seven points added to his driving licence. He was also ordered to pay a £47 victim surcharge and £85 in costs.
Callaghan said: "He should've been charged with causing serious injury by careless driving – but that offence doesn't exist, so the police had their hands tied.
"It seems quite a lenient punishment. The points are only on his licence for a finite amount of time, while I will be having physiotherapy for six months to a year or longer."
Callaghan’s MP, Dominic Raab, has contacted the minister of state for transport, Jesse Norman, about the possibility of introducing a new offence for incidents such as this.
In reply, Norman confirmed the government wants to create a new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and said this would be brought forward "as soon as Parliamentary time allows."
However, Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, said that it wasn’t as simple as introducing a new offence to fill an apparent gap.
“Introducing a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving sounds commons sense, but when the Government introduced a new offence of causing death by careless driving back in 2008, the number of prosecutions for causing death by dangerous driving dropped by 46% in five years.
“Cases which could and should have been charged as dangerous were effectively downgraded to careless, and there’s a risk that this will happen again if we have a new serious injury by careless driving offence without a full review of our careless and dangerous driving laws.”
Dollimore said he expected that serious injury charges would often be downgraded from dangerous to careless because the lesser charge is easier to prove.
“Just bolting on new offences – whether it’s serious injury by careless driving or new careless and dangerous cycling offences, as the Government propose – won’t fix a broken framework for dealing with irresponsible behaviour on our roads. That’s what nearly 14,000 told the Government last year when they supported our campaign for a wider review of traffic offences, but four years on from the announcement that they’d do this, we’re still waiting.”