Now the nights have drawn in and darkness has taken over, we will see the seasonal challenges of driving on roads in the UK. This has prompted a number of discussions with regards to driving at night and particular focus on cyclists involved in accidents. So, where do cyclists stand with regards to lighting and personal injury compensation if involved in a road traffic accident?
The laws on cycling at night
As cycling has become more popular, we have seen the introduction of new laws offering protection to cyclists and motorists. When it comes to riding a cycle on a public road after dark, the laws are very straightforward.
The Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations specify the type of lights and reflectors which should be present on a cycle. In simple terms, cycles are required to have:-
- White front and white rear lights
- A red rear reflector
- Amber pedal reflectors
When it comes to the maintenance of cycles, cyclists are legally obliged to:-
- Fit lights and reflectors which conform with legal standards
- Ensure lights are switched on between sunset and sunrise
- Keep lights and reflectors in good working order
While the legal requirements when riding a bicycle are relatively straightforward, the situation is a little more complex when it comes to personal injury claims. Many people automatically assume that those riding a bicycle at night time without lights or reflectors are not able to claim compensation if involved in a road traffic accident. Not strictly correct!
Looking at the situation in context
You may be surprised to learn that cyclists riding at night without lights/reflectors may still be eligible for compensation if involved in a road traffic accident. It is important that the incident is considered in context with regards to lighting and the potential for reduced compensation.
A motorist is driving down a hill in darkness with headlights on, looking to turn right into a side road, while a cyclist is cycling slowly up the hill with no lights. As the motorist turned right, crossing the path of the cyclist, there was a collision and the cyclist was injured. Many people would automatically assume that the motorist could not be held liable for any injuries, as the cyclist had no lights.
This scenario has occurred on a number of occasions. Even though the cyclist admitted cycling with no lights, there were mitigating circumstances entered by the claimant:-
- The road had street lights and therefore the motorist should have had time to see the cyclist
- The cyclist was cycling up the hill at a relatively slow pace, making visibility easier under the street-lights
In this situation, the cyclist was able to put forward a claim which the defendant responded to, claiming shared responsibility. After out-of-court negotiations, the motorist agreed to pay compensation with a discount of 25% as the cyclist was cycling with no lights at night time.
The next scenario is similar to the first one with the only difference being an out-of-town road where there were no street-lights. As the motorist looks to turn right, into a side street, there is a collision with the cyclist who is injured. In the above context, the street lighting was deemed enough for the motorist to see the cyclist before the collision, even though the cycle had no lights. However, the situation in scenario two is different.
As the cyclist has no lights, and is not visible to the motorist until the very last minute, it is unlikely the motorist would be found negligent. Some may argue that the cyclist could be liable for damage to the motor vehicle as they were driving dangerously, with no consideration for other road users. This is a perfect example of context, yes, in scenario one the cyclist was partially responsible, but found wholly responsible in scenario two.
Accidents in cycle lanes
Many inner-city roads now include cycling lanes which are strictly no-go areas for other motorists. Consequently, proving causation, the fact that an action directly led to an accident, is fairly straightforward. Even if the cycle had no lights or reflectors, the motorist should not have been in the cycling lane. Consequently, it would not be difficult to prove negligence, with shared responsibility unlikely in this scenario.
Consideration for other road users
When looking at road traffic accidents, involving pedestrians or other vehicles, all parties need to demonstrate a degree of consideration for other road users. Unfortunately, some cyclists are oblivious to their legal responsibilities, often changing from roads to paths and vice versa. Many also fail to use or maintain lighting and reflectors on their cycles, thereby dramatically increasing the chance of a cycling accident. Thankfully, the majority of cyclists not only use reflectors and lighting at night time but also wear reflective clothing.
At first glance, many people would see scenario one and scenario two as very similar, placing the bulk of the fault on the cyclist. In reality, even though the cyclist in scenario one had no lighting it was claimed that the motorist should have been aware of them due to street lighting. Consequently, partial negligence was proven, resulting in partial liability compensation. Context is the key!