Case Study

Dan Black seriously injured in Chepstow

Incident date: 
Wed, 2 Dec 2009

Last year, Dec 2nd 2009, Dan Black was run down on the ‘on-road’ section on a Sustrans route (Celtic Trail) A48 Chepstow.

An elderly man simply turned right into oncoming traffic, ignoring all UK road laws, and drove directly into Dan, cycling the other way. Dan broke his back T5 level and suffered brain damage, thankfully he has come out of his coma and is recovering, now in hospital at Rookwood

· Dan was fully lit, all lights confirmed to British Standards (being much brighter than the standards) – confirmed by the police

· Dan had all reflectors on his bike, red rear, x4 amber pedal reflectors – confirmed by the police

· 3m reflective piping on his commuting waterproofs – cut off by the paramedics at scene

· Also it happened on a street lit, main trunk road, on a recognised ‘on road’ section of the Sustrans network (the Celtic trail). – confirmed by the police

After all of this CPS ‘crown prosecution service’ chose not to prosecute the elderly man due to it ‘not being in the public interest’. Worst the CPS quotes Dan as being ‘poorly lit’ as a reason not to prosecute, despite the fact that he met legal standards for lighting and was wearing reflective clothing.

CTC's view: 

Sadly, such decisions are nowhere near as uncommon as they should be, and this is not a ‘major change in police stance’. Decisions about whether or not to prosecute – and if so whether to prosecute for “dangerous” or merely “careless” driving – are often pretty arbitrary. To be fair, sometimes the police, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and courts do everything one could wish for, and injured cyclists can sometimes get all the justice they are rightly entitled to. But far too often the legal system badly lets down cyclists (or indeed pedestrians) who have already suffered injury on our roads, likewise the bereaved families of pedestrians and cyclists who have been killed.

The basic explanation for this is simply that road traffic policing and prosecution in Britain are badly under-resourced. The Home Office and many police forces view traffic policing as a low priority, because it isn’t about catching “real criminals”; indeed there is a minority of public opinion (whipped up by the media to look like the majority) who regard the prosecution of traffic offences as “persecuting the poor beleaguered motorist”. Never mind that such “otherwise law-abiding citizens” are causing enormous harm through their crimes. And unfortunately, this lax attitude to traffic law is not only a reflection of society’s complacent attitudes to bad driving, but it helps to reinforce it. If such crimes are merely “accidents” and “carelessness”, it leaves people thinking such offences can’t be so serious after all.

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