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Protection for vulnerable road users (2)

Coming at the end of a disastrous week on our roads, with several pedestrians and motorcyclists seriously injured by cars and our first tragic motorcycle fatality of the year, Jean Karl Soler’s letter (January 8) must ring a little hollow, even though I am sure he did not have the benefit of a crystal ball when he wrote it.

Soler, an occupational specialist, must be very aware that a form of presumed liability already operates under the occupational health and safety Act and therefore Malta’s criminal code, where the onus of proof is placed upon the employer rather than the victim. Yet I can assure him that no employer has ever gone into court a guilty man.

Presumed liability would do the same on the road under civil compensation cases. That is to simply shift the onus of proof. A driver would be just as innocent as anybody else.

In fact it would only negatively affect a small proportion of drivers (and indeed even cyclists) who are negligent and has been shown to benefit genuinely innocent, competent and good drivers by keeping their insurance premiums and the number of accidents down.

Recently, the case of a cyclist seriously injured after being hit by a car was dismissed, being told that he must have hit a wall. Another case collapsed because a cyclist’s foam-coated handlebar failed to leave a scratch on a four-ton water bowser, despite significant damage and injury to the cyclist.

Soler complains that all drivers are innocent before they go to court. I have not actually said otherwise, but in the light of the above cases can we say that people on bicycles, or even pedestrians and motorcyclists, are afforded the same rights?

We don’t need to misquote out of context statistics from the Netherlands to try to build a shaky case to do that. The behaviour of people on our roads and the lack of protection for vulnerable road users states this all the more eloquently.

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