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Cycling Research

Cycling Research

A Critical Review of the Legal Penalties for Drivers Who Kill Cyclists or Pedestrians

J Voelcker
School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol (April 2007)

Abstract: This paper critically reviews the regulation of motor vehicles in Britain, and in particular the prosecution of drivers who kill cyclists and pedestrians. The development of road traffic regulation is discussed with emphasis on the social and legal processes at work behind the evolution of the law, and anomalies in the current laws are highlighted. The differential rights and responsibilities of drivers and vulnerable road users are considered within a conceptual framework which uses a class- and power-based synthesis to explain demographic trends in car use and road casualties. A critical analysis of a set of court transcripts and newspaper reports involving road accidents then aims to discover whether those drivers who are convicted of killing vulnerable road users are less harshly punished than other criminals who cause death without intent. The dissertation concludes by discovering that drivers are less harshly punished, and that this is due to a bias in the criminal justice system because of a lack of representation of vulnerable road users amongst judiciary, policy makers and legal officials. Unequal class and power relations allow the interests of drivers to be over-represented whilst the rights of pedestrians and cyclists are eroded.




Summary of Findings Summary of Findings (2 A4 pages - PDF document - 480 KB)

Full Research Report Full Research Report (66 A4 pages + appendices - PDF document - 564 KB)

Presentation Presentation (20 slides - PDF document - 140 KB)

Presentation Presentation (20 slides - OpenOffice Impress (ODP) format - 615 KB)

Presentation Presentation (20 slides - Microsoft Powerpoint (PPT) format - 629 KB)



Further Research

The ideas below didn't make it into the above paper because of a lack of space and time, but are presented here as points for possible future research.

Harm Through Pollution
A study which investigates harm caused by air pollution rather than danger
A cost-benefit analysis of cars and bicycles
... or the "but cyclists don't pay road tax!" argument
Policy Recommendations
How best to change driver behaviour and impose a recognition of responsibility?
Comparative International Study
A comparison with legal penalties for drivers in countries other than the UK