Monday, May 14, 2012

Reckless motorist caught on helmet cam

This is fascinating. A local cycling blogger made a video of a reckless motorist with a helmet camera, and used the evidence to file a successful civil complaint with the district police.

 The incident, which occurred in late January on Király utca, is detailed on the blog Sajat Zsiron ('On your own fat', a cycling idiom for riding alone or at the head of a peloton without the benefit of a draft). As the video shows, the cyclist was riding down the street at a point where it splits into three lanes: a bus lane on the right (legally forbidden to cyclists in Hungary), the middle lane in which the cyclist was riding, and then a lane on the left for oncoming traffic. Adhering to traffic rules, the cyclist kept on the right edge of the middle lane as a fast-moving Honda approached from behind. The Honda driver pulled ahead to overtake, trying to squeeze through a very narrow gap between the cyclist and an oncoming Mercedes SUV in the adjacent lane. Seeing that the gap was too narrow, the cyclist veered right into the bus lane. And it was in just the nick of time too, because the Honda veered right as well, narrowly avoiding a head-on with the SUV, but actually brushing the arm of the cyclist as it raced ahead.

It happened on a weekend and there was hardly any traffic. The passing motorist apparently made the dangerous move simply to get through an intersection whose light was about to change.

The blogger decided to use the clip to file a complaint with the police. Having never tried this, the cyclist had no idea what might happen. And after consulting with a Hungarian helmet-camera internet forum, it was apparent that no one else had either. The blogger also consulted a lawyer for the Hungarian Cyclists' Club who was similarly clueless about what might happen, but gave encouragement nonetheless. 

To make a long story short, the cyclist was pleasantly surprised to get a friendly and prompt reply from the VI District police. Just a week after reporting the incident, a lieutenant made contact and took down the cyclist's personal data, typed up a statement and assured that the video would prove useful in the case. Not only did it clearly capture the offending driver's license plate number, it showed exactly what had happened in undeniable fashion.

But then came silence. Nothing but bureaucratic dead air week after week as the cyclist waited for a decision. After more than two months passed with no news, the cyclist figured the complaint had probably become mulch at the bottom of the lieutenant's case load. But finally, on April 26, good tidings arrived in the mail: a court decision on the case stated the driver had been  fined HUF 50,000 and had 5 points docked from their driver's record.

In the next day's update, the blogger writes:
"I felt unspeakable joy in that moment when I realised that the police really do deal with us (cyclists)."
The post stresses that the goal was never to financially destroy the motorist. Rather, it was simply to draw their attention and get them to consider that you cannot jeopardise another's life in such a manner, that cyclists have no protection against speeding metal objects, and that motorists therefore need to watch out for us.

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