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Cyclist who swerved to avoid out-of-control driver questions if £500 fine for "driving without due care" an "appropriate" punishment

Many have suggested the police should have pursued the more serious offence of dangerous driving, the motorist instead accepting six penalty points and ordered to pay £750 for the lesser offence

A cyclist has recalled how he narrowly avoided a collision with a driver who lost control on a bend, the motorist almost smashing into the rider and another vehicle having rounded the corner on the verge of the wrong side of a Somerset road. The images of the incident have also prompted questions about how it was dealt with by Avon & Somerset Police, the driver accepting a fine, penalty points and costs for driving "without due care", some arguing that the motorist should have faced the more severe offence of dangerous driving.

The roads policing unit reported that the incident happened in October, in Ilminster, the driver pleading guilty in court last month to driving without due care, and subsequently being given six penalty points on his driving licence, a £480 fine and ordered to pay costs and victim surcharge totalling £277.

Recalling the incident to road.cc, the cyclist Steve Western said despite the dramatic images "funnily enough it felt as though I had all the time in the world to decide when to swerve".

"I heard the tyre noise before I actually saw it, so had some warning that something was wrong, the guy didn't even get out of the car, he manoeuvred around the car and drove off. I hadn't realised the lady driving had reported it."

Steve had earlier replied to Avon & Somerset Police's social media post about the incident and court result: "Dear @ASPRoadSafety. Not sure [driving without] due care was appropriate for that incident which could have ended so differently. Love from the cyclist in the pictures."

Others joined him in questioning why a more serious dangerous driving offence was not applied here, Robin Pickering saying: "Surely, due care is failing to look properly at a junction causing someone else to have to brake, or maybe close passing a cyclist at a moderate 1-1.5m distance. That looks like clear S2 RTA: driving which falls 'far below the expected standard' and which could easily have had fatal consequences. Why the downgrade?"

Another called it a "pathetically weak sentence" and "hilarious that the social media manager thought this was worth boasting about".

Others suggested that part of the concern for the police might have been the driver avoiding punishment completely had they been unable to prove the more serious "dangerous driving" offence.

> Undertaking motorist's claim that he mounted grass verge "in panic" to avoid crash "utter bollocks", says cyclist "lucky to be alive"

As mentioned in an earlier quote, dangerous driving "is when driving falls far below the minimum standard expected of a competent and careful driver, and includes behaviour that could potentially endanger yourself or other drivers", and may involve speeding, racing, or driving aggressively, ignoring traffic lights, road signs or warnings from passengers, overtaking dangerously, or driving while under the influence.

The lesser offence of driving without due care and attention (careless driving) refers to when "driving falls below the minimum standard expected of a competent and careful driver, and includes driving without reasonable consideration for other road users".

It may involve "overtaking on the inside, driving too close to another vehicle, driving through a red light by mistake, turning into the path of another vehicle, the driver being avoidably distracted by tuning the radio, lighting a cigarette etc., flashing lights to force other drivers to give way, misusing lanes to gain advantage over other drivers, unnecessarily staying in an overtaking lane, unnecessarily slow driving or braking, dazzling other drivers with un-dipped headlights".

It was far from the first time Steve has been on the receiving end of driving that put his safety in danger, and he suggested that Avon & Somerset Police "seem unwilling to do anything" in two other stand-out cases from the past 12 months, both times when his flat bars were clipped by a passing motorist.

"Once by the door mirror and once by the front wing," he explained. "Both occasions by elderly drivers who seemed to think that I shouldn't be riding on the road adjacent to a shared path. Avon and Somerset police seem unwilling to do anything about those though. The joys of cycling..."

In May 2022, we reported that the county's police force had shared a similar social media post featuring a court result, that time after a bus driver hit a cyclist, pushing them into a hedge as they overtook.

Avon and Somerset Police close pass (Avon and Somerset Police)

Again, the driver pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention and was fined £256 and given five penalty points.

(Avon and Somerset Police) bus driver knocks cyclist into hedge

In 2020, the force was accused of incompetence by a cyclist after they failed to track down a driver he said was responsible for a hit and run – even though he had provided them with footage of the incident. 

A police spokesperson said: "Footage the victim provided to us showed he was not struck by the vehicle but does show the poor manner of driving and failing to stop. However, we were unable to track down the driver of the vehicle, despite making exhaustive searches using the Police National Computer and other intelligence databases available to us, which meant that we were unable to prosecute the suspect.

"Regrettably, because of the time taken to make appropriate and necessary checks, the time period we legally have available to us to make those enquires – six months – had elapsed."

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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42 comments

Avatar
mctrials23 | 1 month ago
2 likes

The police were patting themselves on the back because to the vast majority of drivers, thats a really big punishment for the simple crime of nearly killing someone and lets be real here, if that massive wank panzer had hit the cyclist they would almost certainly be dead right now. 

The second reason it was such a light punishment is for the very simple reason that they didn't hurt anyone. You can drive as much like an utter twat as you like but unless you actually hurt someone, its treated like a mild crime. We completely ignore the fact that these scumbags only haven't killed someone through pure luck. 

Almost every time I go out on my bike I will have people overtake me on country roads with a 60 limit over blind hills and bends and the only reason there isn't a crash is luck. Pure luck. 

For some reason, people doing things that are very likely to result in a crash are treated very differently to lets say a business which employs poor health and safety and then someone gets hurt. 

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wycombewheeler | 1 month ago
9 likes
Quote:

 Robin Pickering saying: "Surely, due care is failing to look properly at a junction causing someone else to have to brake, or maybe close passing a cyclist at a moderate 1-1.5m distance

not to be confused with Ronnie Pickering

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essexian replied to wycombewheeler | 1 month ago
6 likes

"Who...?"

"RONNIE PICKERING!!!!"

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morgoth985 replied to essexian | 1 month ago
0 likes

Legendary

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FrankH replied to essexian | 1 month ago
0 likes
essexian wrote:

"Who...?"

"RONNIE PICKERING!!!!"

Don't you mean WONNIE PICKEWING!!!

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mattw replied to FrankH | 1 month ago
0 likes

We need to rebrand Rhonda Pickering as Wander Pickering, as that is what she did.

https://road.cc/content/news/near-miss-day-842-298401

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Patrick9-32 | 1 month ago
20 likes

There should be a simple test for these things, it could be performed by non police to lighten the workload as any driving examiner would be able to check the footage:

"Would this action have resulted in failing a driving test?" 

If the answer is yes, the driver should have their license revoked until they take a retest. Whether there is additional criminal proscecution could then be handled by the police for situations like this where it should fall into the territory of dangerous driving. 

Pay examiners something like £5 per clip reviewed (regardless of outcome so they are not incentivised to find one way or the other) and have the retests taken by the literally thousands of people who would lose their licenses be a little more expensive than a standard driving test to pay for that cost. 

It takes bad drivers off the road quickly and effectively. 

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hawkinspeter replied to Patrick9-32 | 1 month ago
13 likes
Patrick9-32 wrote:

There should be a simple test for these things, it could be performed by non police to lighten the workload as any driving examiner would be able to check the footage:

"Would this action have resulted in failing a driving test?" 

If the answer is yes, the driver should have their license revoked until they take a retest. Whether there is additional criminal proscecution could then be handled by the police for situations like this where it should fall into the territory of dangerous driving. 

Pay examiners something like £5 per miute clip reviewed (regardless of outcome so they are not incentivised to find one way or the other) and have the retests taken by the literally thousands of people who would lose their licenses be a little more expensive than a standard driving test to pay for that cost. 

It takes bad drivers off the road quickly and effectively. 

Absolutely!

The driving test should be considered the minimum skill level for drivers, not the pinnacle of their abilities.

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wycombewheeler replied to Patrick9-32 | 1 month ago
0 likes
Patrick9-32 wrote:

... retests taken by the literally thousands of people who would lose their licenses...

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a driving test at the moment?

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AidanR replied to wycombewheeler | 1 month ago
13 likes

In that case, people who have lost their licence should go to the back of the queue.

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john_smith replied to wycombewheeler | 1 month ago
1 like

I know two people who were trying to get a driving test for so long that their theory tests, which they passed, are no longer valid, so they will have to retake them.

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mattw replied to john_smith | 1 month ago
0 likes

Since a theory test pass is valid for 2 years, that's quite a lot of missed oppostunities.

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morgoth985 replied to wycombewheeler | 1 month ago
7 likes

Should bear that in mind when driving then, eh?

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Patrick9-32 replied to wycombewheeler | 1 month ago
8 likes

Probably a good reason not to drive like a knobhead then?

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wycombewheeler replied to Patrick9-32 | 1 month ago
0 likes
Patrick9-32 wrote:

Probably a good reason not to drive like a knobhead then?

Yes, but what about the people learning to drive for the first time who can't book a test because of all the knobheads?

Maybe sentance them to 2 years of driving a car with no more tha 1l engine / 65hp. Since they have shown themselves to be incapable of handling something more powerful.

Same way new motorbike riders are limited to smaller machines.

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chrisonabike replied to wycombewheeler | 1 month ago
0 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:

Maybe sentance them to 2 years of driving a car with no more tha 1l engine / 65hp. Since they have shown themselves to be incapable of handling something more powerful.

Same way new motorbike riders are limited to smaller machines.

This is an excellent idea.

I can't recall the details now but a week or so back the beeb were looking at the "young people killing themselves in cars" story and they had someone on with the numbers.  Might be the "bleedin' obvious" but IIRC there were stats showing that the period shortly after taking your test and having other young people in the car (apparently this applied to both sexes) was a significant risk factor. They were suggesting something like this but especially that for a period after you've taken your test there are restrictions on carrying other (young?) people.

Of course, the above is one of the reasons people want to drive!  So they can take their mates / prospective dates around.

Perhaps something like "golf buggies only, 17 - 19, then you can have 'safer cars' until (some arbitary age)"?

Also - regular traffic garden visits for all schools, and ideally cycling instruction as part of the curriculum.  Once we actually make it safe for kids to cycle, of course...

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aussiecyclist replied to wycombewheeler | 1 month ago
7 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:
Patrick9-32 wrote:

... retests taken by the literally thousands of people who would lose their licenses...

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a driving test at the moment?

It's almost like that's part of the deterent of non-driving responsibly.

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NOtotheEU replied to wycombewheeler | 1 month ago
6 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:
Patrick9-32 wrote:

... retests taken by the literally thousands of people who would lose their licenses...

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a driving test at the moment?

I liked the idea already, no need to ice the cake!

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HoarseMann replied to wycombewheeler | 1 month ago
1 like
wycombewheeler wrote:

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a driving test at the moment?

It's about a 6 month wait at the moment, which is perfect, as it's essentially a driving ban.

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john_smith replied to HoarseMann | 1 month ago
2 likes

It is? I know people who were trying to arrange a test and were repeatedly being told there were no dates available at all. That was a few months ago though, so maybe things have improved. I believe part of the problem was that "touts" were using automated systems to book tests as soon as they became available and were then selling them on at vastly inflated prices. 

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Rendel Harris replied to john_smith | 1 month ago
0 likes

According to GOV.UK the average wait nationally is now down to 15 weeks, from a peak of 20 in August 2023 caused by a backlog from Covid and test centre strikes. Worst waiting times 21 weeks in the southeast, best 9 weeks in the northeast and Scotland.

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wycombewheeler replied to john_smith | 1 month ago
2 likes
john_smith wrote:

It is? I know people who were trying to arrange a test and were repeatedly being told there were no dates available at all. That was a few months ago though, so maybe things have improved. I believe part of the problem was that "touts" were using automated systems to book tests as soon as they became available and were then selling them on at vastly inflated prices. 

That should not be possible, the person booking the test should be the person whose name is on the licence when they turn up for the test. The instructors should be verifying identify anyway to prevent test fraud.

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mattw replied to HoarseMann | 1 month ago
1 like

It was 15 weeks as an average (I assume median or mean, though it's a clustered dataset) in Jan 2024, down from 20 weeks in August 2023. So not bad and improving rapidly.

I'm more concerned about a pass rate of under 50%, which suggests that they are being taken too soon.

More detail:
https://despatch.blog.gov.uk/2024/02/07/how-driving-test-waiting-times-a...

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morgoth985 replied to Patrick9-32 | 1 month ago
2 likes

Totally agree with this.  It's the bleedin obvious.  So therefore it won't happen.

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mctrials23 replied to Patrick9-32 | 1 month ago
3 likes

Its a nice idea but failing your driving test is very easy. Which is fantastically ironic considering how bloody hard it is to lose it afterwards. You will fail your test for 3 of the same minor infractions such as passing parked cars too closely for the examiners liking. 

I would wager that 95% of people would be failed if a driving instructor was shown an hour of their driving and it wouldn't be for dangerous driving in most cases. 

I do completely agree though that when someone is caught doing something this fucking stupid their licence should be immediately revoked until they can do a retest. I also don't care if you lose your job as a result. Your job isn't worth more than someones life and if you cared so deeply for your family then you wouldn't put them at risk for the sake of driving badly. 

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chrisonabike replied to mctrials23 | 1 month ago
2 likes

Like most things to do with motor vehicles the logic seems backwards here.

"But it's easy to fail a driving test..."- ergo tests are unfairly hard / like a hazing ritual you have to endure before you're admitted to the club. We all know people don't drive like that "in real life".

But the other way of seeing this is the test is a reasonable *minimum* standard. However because of our system of driver licencing is a members club, or a marker of independent adult status there's a tacit understanding we will allow many drivers to drive incompetently. Which may or may not be dangerously depending on circumstance and chance. The hypocritical part is arresting a tiny minority in the hope of "encourager les autres".

The unthinkable - perhaps mass motoring as we practice now is not the way forward? Perhaps more people just shouldn't drive? And we should fix it for everyone so life can work without needing to?

Still "careful what you wish for etc." And we know the current system very well (even though actually many people are actually completely wrong in their intuitions about it.)

It works well enough for most. Certainly for the motor trade and the politicians who back them (almost all of them, motornormativity). The "hard-pressed motorist" doesn't know or believe it could be different. The unlucky few who lose relatives and friends or body functions aren't numerous or salient enough for change. The status quo doesn't change for vulnerable road users and those excluded - children, the elderly, those with disabilities or those who just don't have access to a car.

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brooksby | 1 month ago
1 like

If the police try to prosecute for 'dangerous', do the jury (or magistrate) have the option of finding them guilty for 'careless' at the same trial or would that be a completely seperate prosecution (do we have double jeopardy here?)?

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quiff replied to brooksby | 1 month ago
3 likes

IAAL, but not that sort. I think in some cases the jury is able to reach an alternative verdict, where the more serious charge is not made out but it amounts to a lesser charge (see e.g. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/53/section/24 ). But in practice, I expect the CPS expressly charge both offences in the alternative. 

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Rendel Harris replied to quiff | 1 month ago
1 like

Can the jury do that of their own initiative? I always understood that they could only do that if the judge offered them the option to do so.

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aussiecyclist replied to brooksby | 1 month ago
2 likes

IANAL but as I understand, if the CPS decides to prosecute as dangerous, but the jury or judges don't find it meets the minimum criteria to be guilty of that, it can't be revised down to careless. They're either guilty or not-guilty of the charges that were brought.

Which is why the CPS often opts for the lesser charge of careless driving, which has a lower burden of proof and is more likely to be successful.

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