Wednesday 26 November 2014

Why would you stop if you hit a 'normal' pot hole?

I keep coming back to this point. Maybe the news reports aren't explaining it well enough. Maybe I'm just missing something, but I don't understand.

He said: “As I turned into Trumpington Road I felt something but it felt no worse than some of the potholes which are around.
“I stopped immediately and got out of the car to understand what had occurred and my car had gone over the cyclist.”

So this guy hit a cyclist and killed him, a cyclist who had come off his bike somehow and was in the road. The driver was on the phone. But despite mistaking a cyclist (who he hadn't seen) for a pot hole, he wasn't careless.

Sorry, I don't get it. I don't understand how killing someone who has fallen off their bike because you go round a corner and don't see someone lying in he road so you can't stop in time to save a life, can be viewed under law as not careless. I don't get it.

And I don't want to lose sufficient empathy with fellow human beings such that I ever do understand how drivers get away with this.


  1. Basically, you *wouldn't* get out and check if you had just run over a 'normal' pothole. You'd only do it if you already suspected that the bump wasn't a normal pothole but might be something else. To not see someone lying in the road is careless, but does it fall far enough short of what the courts expect of a reasonably competent driver. Personally, I think that the bar for what is a reasonably competent driver seems to be getting lower and lower and lower...

  2. The thing I don't get about court cases is how the defence puts forward some very questionable defence statements and gets away with it. Many of these are very subjective statement Eg:

    1) "felt something but it felt no worse than some of the potholes which are around".

    2) "has an impeccable driving history".

    3) "was talking on a hands-free device when the collision occurred, explained he had not seen Mr Davis" .... "phone conversations can cause distractions there is no direct evidence that this was the case"

    I'm not sure why the feeling of a pothole (1) is relevant. I think the only thing it achieves it an attempt to lessen the severity of the imagined collision. I'd buy it if it was running over an arm, but the cyclist ended up under the car. If it was relevant it should be tested with a dummy.

    Impeccable driving history (2) is not evidence in my opinion. The chances of being caught and receiving points on your licence is very small these days. Unless the defendant's standard of driving has recently been monitored or we have testimonials, we can't say anything about the historical standard of driving. There has however, been a collision. What matters for prosecution is not historical, what matters is how was the standard of driving at the time of the incident. Driving history is only relevant for setting the level of punishment in upon being found guilty.

    Finally we hear about distraction (3) and no evidence of it. Did the Police reconstruct the scene, lying a dummy in the road and driving through at the same speed in the same light conditions? Only if the Police do that can we measure the level of distraction and competence.

    There's a lot missing from the newspaper story, but the prosecution's case is likely quite weak and easily put on the back foot with poor but unsubstantiated claims by the defence.

    The Cycle Campaign recently went to the inquest of the cycle death on Milton Road. They found the prosecution in that case to be not complete. If this is a pattern, Cambridgeshire Police investigators need to up their game.

    1. Good summary.

      It strikes me as peculiar that if this was death by murder or some kind of work place accident, the kind of investigation you describe (recreating the scene, asking detailed questions about how the level of distraction relates to that scene, looking at what this 'impeccable history' means with regard to probability of getting caught etc.) would be taken for granted.

      It seems that, as ever, we put less effort into investigating death on the road than we do for other premature deaths.

      I'm in no place to judge whether the driver ought to have been held accountable for the incident. But I really worry that unless these factors were really studied, the magistrate wasn't either.