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Friday, March 23 2018 @ 02:58 AM UTC

Drivers are overwhelmingly at fault in collisions with cyclists — should we assume they are liable?

Biking ElsewhereBy Soufiane Boufous, UNSW, ABC News Australia

A report released last week by the Royal Automobile Association of South Australia found that in 195 out of 277 crashes between cars and bicycles (just over 70 per cent) the cyclist was not at fault.

To keep our cyclists safe, it may be time to adopt the approach of many European nations by introducing legislation that, in civil cases, presumes that car drivers caused a collision unless there is evidence to the contrary.

Shifting the burden of proof to drivers — who must prove they didn't cause a crash — has been highly successful in other nations, along with other measures, in keeping cyclists safer and reducing accidents.

Under current laws, cyclists and pedestrians involved in collisions with cars on Australian roads are required to claim on motorists' insurance.

If the insurance company contests the claim, the injured cyclist or pedestrian has to take the case to a civil court.

Surely the burden of proof should shift onto the more powerful road user, especially given that the research suggests they are more likely to be the one at fault.
To do so, we need a presumed liability law that protects vulnerable road users.

Similar laws have been introduced in Canada and in many European countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and France.

Under these laws, sometimes also referred to as "reverse onus" or "strict liability" laws, drivers must prove that a collision with a cyclist or a pedestrian was not their fault.

These laws affect civil cases only and do not remove the presumption of innocence. In criminal law, drivers in collisions with vulnerable road users remain innocent until proven guilty.

It's also not about always blaming motorists. For example, if a cyclist ran a red light and caused a collision, they would obviously be at fault and would not receive compensation.

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