The family of a cyclist killed by an HGV in London have seen their proposals to install sensors and blind spot cameras on lorries shelved by the European Commission because it is not considered ‘cost effective’.
Eilidh Cairns was knocked down in Notting Hill in 2009 after an HGV driver failed to see her. She died soon after from her injuries.
Her devastated friends and family set up the campaign group See Me Save Me and along with RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, they campaign for safety measures to protect cyclists around HGVs.
The Commission report called for more research into the cost and benefit of the additional safety measures, saying that “The Commission believes that further research is needed to assess their potential and cost-effectiveness. They are still at an early stage of development, and we must beware of overloading HGV drivers with extra devices that may distract them.
“Revision of the current EU legislation will only be appropriate once further evidence becomes available that justifies fitting additional devices to vehicles on a mandatory basis.”
The Commission also said that other ways of preventing blind-spot accidents by improving road infrastructure and giving better training to HGV drivers should be considered.
We spoke to Eilidh’s sister Kate, who said: “Sensors cost less than the price of a new tyre. The report on which the commission has based its response points out that drivers cannot look in all the mirrors all the time, even when they are being attentive.
“Time after time after time, drivers say of dead cyclists and pedestrians "I didn't see them", and this is deemed an acceptable excuse and an acceptable status quo by the police, the coroners and the crown prosecution service.
“This needless slaughter of our young, fit and defenceless by the blind and clumsy wielding of killing machines on our roads has to stop.”
Cynthia Barlow, chairwoman of RoadPeace, expressed her disappointment at the outcome.
She said: “I recently spoke at a conference/launch of a new system developed by ASL Vision, in which cameras all round the lorry produce images which are combined into one picture in the cab,so drivers can’t complain about ‘too much information’.
“At a recent meeting with Conway [a major UK haulage company] I did ask the Transport Manager if he had considered the issue of larger areas of glass in the passenger side door.
“He said they had, but had decided that, as their lorries spent most of their time on busy urban streets which often had Advanced Stop Lines at junctions, they felt that the most vulnerable place for the cyclist was actually just in front of the left corner of the lorry and that was why they had gone with a system of sensors which were fitted along the left side and also along the left front of the vehicle.”
However, Kate Cairns told us: "Eilidh was in front and to the right of the lorry, not in the traditional 'blind spot', showing that there is danger all around the cabs, not just on the left."
Lack of enforement of advanced stop lines is also a problem. "At the inquest of Daniel Cox this week the driver admitted being over the ASL and neither the police nor the coroner seemed to think there was anything wrong in this," said Kate Cairns.
"The Institution of Mechanical Engineers in April also called for mandatory installation of cameras and sensors in its report Intelligent Transport Intelligent Society," she added.
RoadPeace have already published a paper analysing the cost of a cyclist being killed by a lorry, both in emotional and financial terms.
It says that the monetary value of a death can be an average of of £37,000 to a victim’s family, in terms of funeral costs, legal advice, copies of documents, travel to the trial etc.
By contrast, the cost of fitting the sensors and cameras is around £400.
The cost to the taxpayer is much more. The report states that:
“The Department for Transport calculates each year the cost of fatal road collisions, looking at such issues as lost economic output, medical and healthcare costs, material damage, police and fire service costs, insurance administration, legal and court costs etc. Currently, the cost of each road death is £1.87 million.”
And the price is high too for the haulage company involved; both in material costs but also in reputational damage, leading to decreased contracts, and higher insurance premiums.
It also points out how dangerous HGVs are to other road users: HGVs over 7.5 tonnes account for around 2% of journeys in London, but 12% of the fatalities.
It remains to be seen whether the European Commission will agree with the cost analysis created by RoadPeace, however.
Click here to see an ITV video with Sarah Ludford, who is a MEP for London, who accuses the Commission of dragging its feet.
To read the Commission report, click here.