Cyclists involved in a road accidents will automatically be deemed to be the wronged party, under planned road safety changes to European Union insurance legislation, writes Euro-legislation export Mark Rowe.
A directive from Brussels has ruled that cyclists and pedestrians who are hit by a car will always be covered by the insurance of the motor vehicle involved, irrespective of whether or not they are to blame. The proposal, would amend the EU's Fifth Motor Insurance Directive, and will be discussed by the European Parliament this autumn. Each year 9,000 pedestrians and cyclists are killed, and a further 200,000 are injured, in accidents involving cars within the European Union.
A spokeswoman for the European Commission said: "While pedestrians and cyclists cause some accidents, motor vehicles cause most accidents. Whoever is responsible, pedestrians and cyclists usually suffer more in accidents involving motor vehicles. This enhances their protection."
The move would extend a policy that already exists in the Netherlands and is part of a drive to harmonise road insurance policies across the 15 Member States of the EU and boost road safety. In the Netherlands, any car driver involved in a collision with a cyclist is automatically deemed to be at fault. Consequently, it is said, motorists tend to drive more gingerly.
At present, some countries provide for no such insurance cover and courts are often faced with what is generally viewed as an almost impossible task of proving that a cyclist or pedestrian was responsible for an accident. In such cases, all parties typically seek a compromise to permit inclusion of the victim within the motor insurance cover.
Kevin Clinton, head of road safety for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents gave a cautious welcome to the proposal. "In accidents involving adult cyclists it is the driver that is more often at fault," he said.
"With child cyclists the child tends to come off the bike when there is no one around and we expect drivers to take the possibility of this into account. When you get your driving licence you are agreeing that you bring with it more responsibility for safety."