Drivers may be blamed for all bicycle accidents

The Government said yesterday it had concerns over possible European legislation to make car drivers responsible for all accidents involving cyclists ­ even if motorists are not in the wrong.

The Government said yesterday it had concerns over possible European legislation to make car drivers responsible for all accidents involving cyclists ­ even if motorists are not in the wrong.

The Department of Transport said it had misgivings and would be raising them with the European Commission. But a spokesman stressed that the proposals were at an early stage and were likely to be altered. He said: "There are occasions when you can break the law by cycling, such as riding while under the influence. We've got to look at how this would work. If a cyclist has committed an offence, should the onus be on the motorist?"

The European Commission document states that most accidents are caused by motorists. "Whoever is responsible, pedestrians and cyclists usually suffer more," it says. "In some member states the cyclist is covered by the insurance of the vehicle involved in the accident irrespective of whether the driver is at fault."

News of the proposal was reportedly welcomed by cycling groups, who said it would offer more protection for vulnerable road users. But the RAC said it would encourage cyclists to ignore the Highway Code. and could cause car insurance premiums to rise by an average of £50.

Jonathan Simpson, of the RAC Foundation, said increased costs could lead to fewer people taking out insurance and called instead for more safety awareness and formal training among cyclists. "The UK Government has to take a lead on this," he said. "The onus should not be put on the motorist for accidents. It has to be done in a way which is equitable."

A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers said: "If you did have a system where every time somebody was in an accident they received automatic compensation, that would impact on premiums. We're seeking clarification."

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