More dangerous drivers in the Bristol area are being caught out thanks to evidence captured by cyclists on camera. Road users are taking it upon themselves to use dashcam and helmet cam footage to pass to police and help make journeys safer.
Avon and Somerset Police data shows that in the last year, the number of reports of dangerous driving have doubled – with over half of the evidence being submitted by cyclists. Bristol Cycling Campaign is among those working with the force to increase safety.
James Taylor, who is part of Bristol Cycling Campaign, recorded almost 500 incidents of dangerous driving over the last few years and said 466 resulting in warnings, fixed penalties or prosecutions. Mr Taylor is one of an increasing number of road users using dashcams to report dangerous driving, and told Bristol Live that he personally know half a dozen people who are doing the same, not all of whom are cyclists.
Mr Taylor, who cycles 10 miles on his daily commute to work, started submitting his footage of dangerous driving following a particular incident during which he says a driver came close to “slashing him to bits”. He said: “I got a camera for my bike because I found that drivers were getting too close to me and I was really scared that someone would hit me and I’d either be killed or injured and it would be my word against theirs. They would make some excuse like, ‘he was all over the road’.
“There was a driver who came exceptionally close to slashing me to bits, she was going really fast and overtook me in the face of an oncoming car. There simply wasn’t room, I don’t know how I wasn’t knocked off.
“I think most cyclists have had a pass like that. I thought, well I’ve got the video and surely it’s better for the person to be educated into not doing this than to have a death on their conscience.
“When I’m driving, if I see someone who is driving badly and my camera picks up the registration plate, why not report it? My main motivation is to help people improve their driving because I can’t imagine how it must feel to kill or injure another person.
“Very few people go out actually intending to injure someone else but the consequences can be very severe. I think if someone is warned to stop using a phone behind the wheel or to give cyclists more space then I’m doing them a favour really.”
In the last year alone 1,608 people died on the UK’s roads and almost 27,000 others were seriously injured. Despite the pandemic causing a drop in such deaths, in 2020 there were only 13 days in the whole year without a single death on the UK roads, according to data presented by the charity RoadPeace.
Mr Taylor said: “Most people are great, I ride 10 miles a day to work and there are days where I haven’t had a single issue with anybody. But for those who do drive dangerously I think they pose a risk to everyone else, not just me.
“I could probably reel off around half a dozen others in Bristol who are doing the same and they’re not all cyclists. We need people to know that they can be filmed and there can be consequences.
“Somebody was overtaking me really close so I tapped on the car to let him know and he threatened me, he was convicted of a public order offence. He said, ‘you bang my car, I’ll bang you.’”
Mr Taylor, who posts regular updates on Twitter of his submissions, said that most commonly the incidents he records involve reckless overtaking, sometimes around bends and blind spots. Often these result in close passes where the driver either doesn’t give the cyclist enough room when overtaking or comes too close to oncoming traffic, causing other drivers to make an emergency stop.
Some people on social media have criticised Mr Taylor and called him a “grass” for submitting footage to the police. Mr Taylor said that such people need to “grow up” and understand that we live in a society where “if someone gets slashed up on the road, it’s a bad thing”.
Without the camera footage, often collisions or near-misses would happen but no action would be taken due to a lack of evidence to prosecute. Mr Taylor hopes that the Bristol Cycling Campaign’s road justice campaign will save lives and make drivers think more carefully about the potential consequences of dangerous overtaking or using a hand-held phone while driving.