Three laws for civil travel

  1. Do not collide with anything.
  2. In the event of a collision, the user of greatest power is at fault.
  3. In the event of a collision, the user of greatest power will be charged under the appropriate criminal code for death (murder), injuries (battery, ABH, GBH), or damage (criminal) caused, and will also be liable for civil penalties.

Notes:

(i) The user of greatest power is determined as follows:

Human on foot<human powered vehicle<motor transport

In the event of intra-group collisions the user of greatest power will be determined by the appropriate authority. For example, an adult cyclist will be assumed to be at fault in the event of a collision with a child cyclist. Motor vehicles' power-to-weight ratios will be calculated and the results used to determine liability.

(ii) In the event of 2) it will be a defence for the user of greatest power to demonstrate that: they were obeying **all** current conventions of civil travel. Such a defence would include: suitably notarised proof of observance at the time of the incident to the correct speed for the conditions; other prevailing traffic regulations; a scrupulously maintained vehicle; evidence of previously good conduct (such as annual re-certification of advanced driving ability), absence of previous convictions or complaints; evidence of absence of intoxication at the time of the incident.

(iii) An independent traffic authority will be responsible for investigating and collating the information in (ii). The traffic authority may provide--at cost--equipment to enable vehicle users to provide continuous evidence of their adherence with speed limits, inspections to provide proof of their maintenance of their vehicles, professional assessments to provide proof of ongoing expertise in the conduct of their vehicle, and a suitable register for complaints.

(iv) Vehicle users whose liberty or vehicle usage is restricted in the event of conviction under 2) will be entitled (at their own expense) to regain their privileges by undergoing a suitable programme of rehabilitation, to include: appreciation of the needs of less powerful users through demonstration of practical competence in these modes--walking (including the practical appreciation of child and disability perspectives), cycling (through practical on-road training and use), and probationary driving, and regular tests of increasing competence.

Comment

There is too much emphasis in the law on intention, and too little on outcome. If I hit you over the head with a baseball bat and you die from a fractured skull, I'll get jail. If you do the same thing with a motor vehicle, most likely you'll walk free. This is an injustice.

I don't think prosecution and prison is an effective way of preventing either occurrance. The law is a backstop. But I do think more social pressure for the users of vehicles to take more care would be. Most users are very careless. Most users speed. Many do not maintain their vehicles properly. I think the answer to these problems is not to prosecute them, but to:

  1. ensure they have an ethical, social and legal duty to continually enhance their skills
  2. demonstrate to the world that they are doing so
  3. provide powerful disincentives for failing to meet continually improving standards of road conduct

Professional drivers (PSV, HGV, black cab drivers) are on the whole better drivers than the average punter in a car or white van. They have a livelihood to lose if they drive badly. Cyclists have a healthy self-interest in avoiding collisions. The problem is that the mind of the average motor vehicle user is insulated in a little box specifically designed to feel "safe." (for which read "designed to reduce the perception of users that their actions may have violent consequences").

Comments to dougie@carnall.org

First draft 18/10/01

Amended 19/10/01