“No charges were filed.” That’s the postscript of every single one of the cycling deaths that Bob Mionske reports in his latest issue of Legally Speaking. James also makes note of the extremely low rate of prosecutions against dangerously careless drivers in his state of South Carolina, where only 5% of “accidental” traffic deaths results in any charges being filed. Of 101 cyclists killed between 2001 and 2004 on South Carolina roads, only 18 citations were written.
Cycling is safer than many our perceptions lead us to think, but it can be made safer with little effort. The United Kingdom until recently had a cyclist fatality rate similar to the U.S. With a recent emphasis on traffic law enforcement, however, the cyclist and pedestrian fatality rate dropped significantly.
From my own participation in the political process and bicycling advocacy, I know cities and police departments are often reluctant to increase enforcement of unpopular traffic laws. Even after a tragedy occurs, the response from officials is often “blame the victim” for being in the “wrong” place. Bob and James both promise more on traffic safety and enforcement in the United States; I’m looking forward to what they have to write.