Prosecuting drivers is most effective way to improve cyclists’ safety, say West Midlands Police

West Midlands Police Traffic Unit blog outlines the service's tactic to reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries to cyclists riding on road in its area

West Midlands Police has changed its tactic when it comes to trying to reduce serious injury and death to cyclists on the region’s roads, saying that prosecuting drivers is more effective than running awareness campaigns.

In a comprehensive blog published by West Midlands Police Traffic Unit (WMPTU) last week, the service says that many ‘look out’-stye awareness campaigns miss their intended audience. It says that the most effective way to make drivers more aware of vulnerable road users, including cyclists, is to prosecute them when they commit an offence, including a ‘close pass’ of cyclists.

“We could make use of social media, press releases etc. to tell motorists to ‘look out’ for cyclists, but this has been ongoing with both cyclists and motorcyclists and although has some positive effect it doesn’t reach the target audience we need to engage, those unwilling to take on the message or dismissive of vulnerable road users altogether, which given the rise in KSI [killed or seriously injured] collisions involving vulnerable road users seems like the majority of motorists.

“Our time and effort, we have quickly realised, is better spent enforcing the law and prosecuting, thus creating a scenario whereby should someone not give a cyclist the time and space necessary or fail to see them completely they should expect to be prosecuted. In other words the carrot goes out the window and in comes the stick.

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“Why some might ask? Well if drivers expect to be prosecuted for committing offences they suddenly stop committing them, unsurprising correlation I know but it’s the truth. Once drivers become aware that an infringement involving a cyclist is one they should expect to be prosecuted for, they suddenly become more aware of them on the road and in turn start giving them the time and space they should lawfully have as an equal road user.”

The blog clearly states that in the opinion of WMPTU, cyclists are very rarely to blame for collisions. It’s statistics show that of all KSIs relating to road traffic collisions involving bicycles, 98 per cent involved another vehicle – 84 per cent with a car.

From WMPTU observations, it is almost always the driver who has failed to see the cyclists or give them sufficient room.

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“So drivers need to expect a zero tolerance approach for any offence involving a vulnerable road user, or an offence that could contribute to a collision involving a vulnerable road user,” said the blog.

“The only way to change driver behaviour and concentrate minds on looking out for vulnerable road users and change driving habits is through enforcement, and the resulting fear of being prosecuted.

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“‘What about the cyclists!’ well… statistical analysis shows they aren’t to blame, [they are] innocent in the majority of KSI collisions, it would be a waste of our time, and thus public time and money to concentrate on cyclist behaviour. The figures speak for themselves.”

The WMPTU blog has been well received by cyclists and other road users, many of whom have commended its common-sense approach to tackling the problem of death and serious injury to cyclists on Britain’s roads.