YOU report that police will assiduously enforce the law against drivers who overtake cyclists too close, and that every week in Scotland at least three cyclists suffer serious, life-changing injuries, usually from a collision with a vehicle (“Drivers warned: Give space to cyclists or risk criminal conviction”, The Herald, July 7). Yet no politician, government agency, or local authority while hailing the recent huge increase in cycling (and walking) has yet acceded to the demands of safety campaigners to replace the current fault-based compensation system with strict liability.

Many drivers claim that they always do drive with due consideration for vulnerable road users and are outraged by the suggestion that they should be automatically liable for the consequences of any lapses. Such assertions of innocence are less convincing when one thinks of the young mother doing the school run before racing off for a nine o'clock start at her workplace, or the middle-aged businessman late for a meeting at which he hopes to conclude a profitable contract. And how many “careful” drivers comply with the 20mph speed limit which is specifically intended to protect vulnerable road users?

The effect strict liability has on driver behaviour may be debatable, but it provides many more unarguable advantages. Under the present fault-based system months, sometimes years are spent while claimant's lawyers and insurance staff wrangle over where liability lies (for example, did the cyclist swerve round a pothole, or was the overtaking driver too close?). In the meantime, there is no mitigation of the economic consequences borne by the victim, a serious consideration in our long-standing hostile environment for welfare benefits. And where a lone cyclist has been hit, where is the evidence of fault to come from? If a motor vehicle is involved any passengers will almost certainly support “our driver”. Likewise with lone pedestrians: witnesses may become aware of the incident only when they hear the thump and be unable to say whether the pedestrian carelessly stepped off the pavement without looking or how fast the driver was travelling.

Under strict liability the legal wrangling (and lawyers and extra insurance staff) can be dispensed with as fault is established automatically at the point of impact. With that done the lawyers and medics can then be called in to assess the value of the injury suffered by the victim. That may take some time, but even under the present fault-based system instalments can be paid out by the insurance companies as soon as liability is established.

When we drivers exercise the privilege of introducing a couple of tons of potentially death-dealing metal on to public roads we should in fairness accept that we are automatically liable for the consequences regardless of fault. And we should remember that every day we ourselves and our families are likely to be vulnerable road users even if we do no more than step out of our cars to cross the street.

William Neilson, Edinburgh EH16.