The so-called 'Cycling Law' is already a reality. This Thursday, March 15, a revision of the Criminal Code has come into force that seeks to end impunity for reckless driving that causes deaths or relevant injuries. The reform establishes that any imprudence that occurs while driving a motor vehicle or moped resulting in death or serious injury and that is preceded by an infraction classified as serious in the Road Safety Law must be considered “objectively a crime”. For example, skipping a stop sign or giving way.
In these cases, the recklessness must be classified, at least, as less serious, but "never as minor", establishes the text that was published in the BOE this Wednesday. The objective of the law is to avoid the loopholes of a previous 2015 reform that was causing the courts to consider these situations “routinely” —the law details— to consider these situations to be minor imprudence.
The consequence of this was being the file of many procedures. And that many cases end up in the civil jurisdiction, where the victims have to pay out of pocket for a bodily injury valuation report and are left at the mercy of the insurers. Last year, 3,728 people were seriously injured and more than a thousand died in traffic accidents. 38% of them, a total of 383, were vulnerable users: pedestrians, cyclists and mopedists.
In order to increase the protection of the victims, what this reform tries to avoid is that the judges can subjectively assess the non-existence of a crime and close the proceedings without a minimum instruction. Consequently, it is sought to facilitate that all cases of traffic accidents with deaths or injuries with relevant injuries that take place after committing an infraction classified as serious are resolved by judges in criminal proceedings. For this, it is also imposed that the traffic agents (Civil Guard, Mossos d'Esquadra, Ertzaintza, Navarre Provincial Police and local police) are obliged to draw up reports of all accidents in which there are deceased or injured people.
“Thus, a modification is introduced in the legal text that does not intend to deprive the judge of the power to assess whether an imprudence was committed, nor that of whether or not a serious administrative infraction of traffic regulations was committed, nor that of establishing the link between the reckless act and the relevant result of death or injury,” says the law. And it reiterates that the "purpose" is to establish that if the judge or court determines that there was recklessness at the wheel in which there was a serious infraction of traffic regulations and, as a consequence, death or relevant injuries occurred, the recklessness must be qualified, at least, as less serious recklessness.
“If there is a direct and objective causality, the imprudence must have a criminal reproach, because we have neglected the most important thing we were doing, driving. Oversights at the wheel destroy lives”, said the socialist deputy Maribel García López last June during the debate on this reform in Congress. The reform is based on a proposal presented in August last year by the PSOE. Only Vox has voted against the norm in its processing in Congress and the Senate. The PP and the PNV abstained.
The prison sentence, in any case, will be reserved for severe cases. In cases of less serious negligence in which relevant injuries are caused that require medical or surgical treatment but are not disabling, there will be no prison sentences. These cases will be resolved with fines of one or two months. With this, it will not be necessary to be assisted by a lawyer and attorney, and the process will be carried out by an investigating judge "without prejudice to all the guarantees for the victim," says the law.
On the other hand, in crimes of less serious negligence, the penalty of deprivation of the right to drive is imposed as mandatory. Until now it was optional. And in relation to the cases in which a result of death occurs, the requirement of a complaint from the aggrieved person or his legal representative is eliminated, so that the judicial authority can proceed to investigate the facts directly.