Personal injury claims pertaining to road traffic accidents are common in Britain, although whilst the number of accident claims recorded each year continues to rise, the number of road traffic accidents is steadily declining. This apparent discrepancy can be explained in numerous ways: road safety campaigns have influenced drivers' behaviour to a certain extent; the police will more readily investigate suspicious drivers; car manufacturers are producing safer cars, by and large; and the public has become more aware of their legal rights. The introduction of no win no fee solicitors has also improved the access to justice for members of the public, so it is understandable that a fall in road traffic accidents does not necessarily match the trend of increased personal injury claims.
When reviewing the safety of Britain's roads, it is essential that any assessment of road traffic accidents takes into account incidents that affect pedestrians and cyclists. With regard to the latter, this is an especially important consideration as it is believed that the vast majority of cycling accidents are left unreported; indeed, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), up to 90 per cent of all cycling accidents are not reported. ROSPA figures show that 16,195 cycling casualties were reported in 2007, of which there were 18 fatalities and 2,428 serious injuries. Cycling, however friendly to the environment, clearly poses a substantial risk to health and safety. Unfortunately, when cyclists are involved in road traffic accidents, the risk of death or serious injury is significantly higher than it would be if they were driving vehicles.
The recent case of Tara Butterfield, a 32-year-old mother from Littlehampton, illustrates how dangerous cycling can be and how important it is for other road users to pay more respect to cyclists. Riding her bike to work one morning, Ms Butterfield received a blow to the back of her head as an overtaking vehicle driven by Andrew Poole clipped her with its wing mirror. Although there was no suggestion that Mr Poole deliberately struck Ms Butterfield, the driver was convicted of careless driving and subsequently received six penalty points on his licence and a £200 fine.
Sadly, the accident fractured Ms Butterfield's skull, leaving her fighting for her life. Although Ms Butterfield now suffers permanent disabilities because of the accident, doctors claim that had Mr Poole's car been travelling 1mph faster she would have been killed. Ms Butterfield is now claiming compensation thought to be in the region of £300,000 from Mr Poole's insurer, Allianz Insurance.