Rights for victims of road crashes
During Victims Awareness Week, Scotland’s Campaign against Inconsiderate Driving (SCID) in collaboration with Victim Support Scotland and other victim organisations, seeks to raise awareness of road safety issues, empower families bereaved and victims injured by road crashes of the existing rights they should expect to receive.
Research published in January 2020 by the European Transport Safety Council revealed that there were at least 51,300 pedestrians and 19,450 cyclists killed on EU roads between 2010 and 2018. The researchers found that while deaths among motorised vehicle occupants fell by, on average, 3.1% a year over the period, deaths among cyclists averaged only a 0.4% annual reduction – eight times slower.
Victims of road crashes
Number of killed and serious casualties in Scotland 2018:
- Car – 742
- Pedestrians – 396
- Motorcyclists – 316
- Cyclists – 162
Behind every statistic are victim families deeply traumatised by grief, practical and the financial issues which follow. Bereaved families and victims injured understandably seek information on the circumstances of the crash from the investigating police officers, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).
“A road death is no ordinary death. It is a sudden, premature, violent death, worsened by the fact that the victim/s were overwhelmingly healthy at the time and in 95% of cases death or injury could have been avoided. Serious injury is life changing – loss of limb/s, brain injury, paralysis.”
Over the many years SCID has been supporting bereaved families and victims injured; it is information gathered in the investigation which is so essential to help bereaved families deal with injuries received and the finality of a road death.
Traumatised victims and their families can often find the investigative and legal process to be bewildering. A key assertion of The Victims’ Code for Scotland states “You have the right to understand what is happening and be understood” or the right to participation.
Victims and their families are often unaware of some of the rights they have following a road crash.
Victims have the right to see a plan of the locus, also known as the crash scene, and have it explained to them by the investigating police officers. Their views on a Fatal Accident Inquiry should be taken into account and they also have the right to ask the Crown for a review of any decisions taken as a result of a trial. Under the Victim Notification Scheme, victims and some relatives are entitled to sign up to be informed when their offender has been released from prison. However, this only applies if the prison sentence is 18 months or longer and there are tight restrictions around which family members, as well as how many, can sign up to the Victim Notification Scheme.
Further information can be found on The Road Death Investigation Manual, which explains the role of the police when investigating a road death.
To date there is no similar guidance published by the police on serious injury cases. The COPFS have also published very general Information for Bereaved Relatives . The charity BRAKE, with funding from the Scottish Government, has published information and advice for bereaved families and friends following a road death in Scotland.
As with other crime types, victims of road crashes and their families have the right to be supported by Victim Support Scotland at any stage of the process and for however long they need it. Whoever you are and whatever the crime, we’re here to help.