Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 9th, 2010 at 4:05 pm
If marketing campaigns and PSAs don't curb distracted driving and we lack the resources to enforce laws, how will we ever learn that driving a multi-ton vehicle on a road shared with people walking and biking is an extremely serious responsibility?
As we struggle to figure out why an "alarming" amount of people are being killed while walking on our roads here in Oregon, and we mourn the death of a 23 month old who was hit while crossing a North Portland street yesterday (was being pushed in a stroller), I want to share the concept of "strict liability" that is current practice in the Netherlands.
Earlier today, a local activist shared a short video (published by IPayRoadTax.com, a UK campaign) about the concept .
(Photo © J. Maus)
Here's the transcript from the video of Mr. Voerknecht explaining how their system works in the Netherlands (please excuse his English):
"When an accident happens in general the car driver is liable; and even when the car driver would say, 'Yeah but the bicyclist made a very strange movement and I couldn't do anything about it,' then the judge would say, 'Well, you could see the bicyclist and you know that this happens with bicyclists and you should reduce your speed in a situation where there are bicyclists, so still you are at fault'.
So only in a situation when a car driver for instance would stay still and the bike would ram into the side of the car, then of course the car driver isn't liable; but in a sense we say in the Netherlands, car drivers should be aware of the situation that they are in a machine that can kill and that they should behave responsibly for that situation."
Watch the video below:
Outlandish? Crazy? I'm sure that's how many in America will first react to this concept. But is it any crazier than the current state of traffic culture in this country? Where people put on makeup and text their friends while driving and don't seem to have any idea what the results of their inattention might mean to themselves and those around them?
Strict liability might also help shift the emphasis of crash prevention away from admonishing road users for not wearing bright enough clothing and toward the people operating the most dangerous vehicles. (Note: Strict liability is something that is applied as a civil measure for insurance liability purposes, not as a criminal culpability measure.)
What do you think?
Learn more about strict liability on the website of CTC, the U.K.'s National Cyclists Organization (they support the concept and are working to make it law).
- The Oregonian: Distracted driving by police officer costs city $338,477
- Thoughts on distracted driving and walking headlines
- US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood will hold 'Distracted Driving Summit'
- PBOT announces location of first distracted driving enforcement action
- Beaverton PD launches distracted driving diversion program