Strict Liability: Civil Law for Civil Streets

Yesterday we highlighted a Bob Mionske column that eloquently lays out inherent biases common in U.S. traffic codes and proposes measures we can take to start correcting them. One of them is strict liability, which generally assigns responsibility for a collision to the operator of the vehicle likely to do the most damage (just as motorists are expected to look out for cyclists, cyclists must look out for pedestrians).

This video, via Copenhagenize, explains. Says narrator Hans Voerknecht:

We say in the Netherlands: Car drivers should be aware of the situation, that they are in the machine that could kill, and that they should behave responsibly.

As reader Mitch alluded to yesterday, strict liability as applied here is primarily a civil law concept. But its value in establishing a culture of equity on the roads, as Mionske writes, is hard to dispute.

In [a] sense, the law is helping Dutch drivers to see cyclists. "Reasonable human beings in other countries see the cyclist," [SF Bicycle Coalition’s] Andy Thornley notes. "How can we help drivers here to look harder?" Through laws that send the right signals when drivers fail in their duties to others.


Council Bill Would Fine Drivers for Leaving the Scene of a Crash

Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Ydanis Rodriguez have introduced a bill that would impose civil penalties for hit-and-run crashes. Intro 371 would attach escalating fines, based on injury severity, for violating Section 600 of the state traffic code, which deals with leaving the scene. Fines would begin at “not more than” $250 for drivers […]

Bratton’s Pedestrian Ticket Blitz Won’t Save Lives

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s claim last week that 66 percent of pedestrian injuries “are directly related to the actions of pedestrians” was unsourced and at odds with existing research, but already it seems to be shaping NYPD’s enforcement efforts. On a horrifically violent weekend during which three pedestrians and one cyclist were killed by motorists on NYC […]