One of the more insidious parts of our culture is our eagerness to blame victims of crime for being well, victims of crime.
Whether it is a cyclist or pedestrian killed by a bad driver, or a victim of rape or assault, there is a tendency to apportion guilt to the victim for putting themselves “in harm’s way”.
Perhaps generations of us have been schooled on cheesy B-movie horrors where victims of serial killers, vampires and ghouls make the same old mistakes of running upstairs and cornering themselves or simply walking into a trap that the viewer can plainly see.
Sadly, real life is not a horror movie, although sometimes it does feel that way. In the real world, people don’t generally go out of their way to be attacked, or mown down by a car on their way to work. People are put in harm’s way by people who are inherently bad, or by people who did not do their job properly. As a rule, they’re not “asking for it”.
Unfortunately, a lot of this victim blaming comes from the very people we look to to keep us safe. You may remember we spoke about the much maligned Think! campaign from the Department of Transport, which used a video of a cyclist being left-hooked by a lorry in an attempt to illustrate its point. It failed, spectacularly.
Sadly, the authorities also believe we should dress like highways engineers (now if it was actually highways engineers on those bikes we may start to get somewhere…) when we go out on our bikes and that we should wear a polystyrene lid of questionable effectiveness. The alternative of course, is to expect motorists to look where they are going; to not text or use their phone while driving and to adhere to speed limits. When they fail in their obligations, reprimand them with more than a few points and a measly fine.
Of course, this leads us neatly onto a more fundamental issue. It’s apparently easier and cheaper to blame the victim than it is to hold the culprits to account. How many times have you heard a report of someone being crushed by a lorry only to hear the retort “but they were not wearing a helmet”. It’s an easy cop-out, ignoring the simple fact that polystyrene is no match for a vehicle of any size, never mind a truck.
But if you want to avoid all the paperwork involved in prosecuting someone for failing to drive safely, or for designing a junction or some “cycle infrastructure” that actually puts the users in harm’s way –door-zone cycle lanes for example, go on, blame the victim. Surely the tabloids & gutter press will back you up.
Cases of drivers causing death by dangerous driving rarely make it to court. Convictions are rarer still.
Cycling and the justice system
During early 2017 the All Party Cycling Group conducted an inquiry called ‘Cycling and the Justice System’.
The select committee styled enquiry took evidence from cycling organisations, lawyers, road safety campaigners, the police and members of the general public on whether the current judicial system is serving all cyclists.
Source: Cycling and the Justice System |
The report makes 14 recommendations ranging from a revision of the Highway Code and a change to the driving test, to a widespread rollout of the Close Pass Initiative.
It also recommends that the Ministry of Justice clarify the lines between dangerous and careless driving and that it investigates why disqualifications are on the decline.
There has been a general election between the release of this document and today and there’s a danger that these recommendations will be lost in the mire, but it is comforting to see that the pitiful attitude of the authorities to the dangers posed by crap drivers hasn’t gone unnoticed.
The document is well worth a read. It’s also worth getting acquainted with your local MP and asking that they read it too.