Tag Archives: concluded

Alan Cronin

References on Delicious.

Incident summary

Collision with Fiat van at junction 7 of the A483 northbound.

Legal summary

Damian Niepieklo arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, failing to stop after an accident and failing to report an accident, and was remanded in custody.

The CPS dropped the charge of causing death by dangerous driving but Niepielko admittied causing death by careless driving. He was also found guilty of failing to stop or report an accident by magistrates at Wrexham Magistrates’ Court.  He was sentenced by Judge Rhys Rowlands on October 2 to 12 months’ imprisonment and a two year driving ban.

April Reeves

References on Delicious.

Incident summary

Collision with car driven by Peter Farmer on A371 Locking Moor Road, Weston-super-Mare. April was on the cycle path immediately adjacent to the road (which has a 60mph speed limit) and lost control of her bicycle while apparently struggling with her gears. She fell across the kerb into the path of a vehicle and was struck, suffering fatal head injuries.

Legal summary

At an inquest, coroner Maria Voisin gave a verdict of death by road traffic accident and ruled that Farmer was not in any way to blame. She said she would write to North Somerset Council “to discuss measures they could take to prevent future deaths on the road”.

Comment

This incident serves as a prime example of why simply creating a lane for bicycles (and, indeed, pedestrians) alongside a fast road is inadequate.

In order to prevent pedestrians or cyclists falling into the carriageway the carriageway and/or footway must be separated by at least some distance, and ideally by some raised feature. Additionally, although not a factor in this case, a major barrier such as armco is required if motor vehicles are to be prevented from leaving the carriageway.

Where speeds above 30mph (some might argue even lower) there is a very high risk that once an incident such as this starts to unfold it will end in serious injury or death, if there is no such separation from the carriageway.

It is worth noting that incidents of this nature have myriad causes including human error (which particularly affects the young), medical episodes (which particularly affect the old), loose animals, mechanical failure and so on.

Highway designs such as the one used in this location serve to punish basic errors or simple misfortune with death, and any continued implementation of them should arguably be considered negligent at best. Given the prevalence of the design to punish factors that are more prevalent in those of particularly young or old ages, it is also arguably discriminatory.

Abdul Mahad

References on Delicious.

Incident summary

Mahad was crossing the A45 Coventry Road in Sheldon, at a marked crossing, on his bicycle when he was struck by a Toyota driven by David Belle, 65. He sustained serious injuries and later died in hospital.

Belle had misunderstood the traffic lights, observing the green lights for a slip road to his side but not the read lights controlling the crossing.

Legal summary

Belle admitted causing death by careless driving. He was banned from driving for one year, given 100 hours’ unpaid work, and received a 12-month suspended sentence (suspended for 18 months).

Tony Ashcroft

References on Delicious.

Incident summary

Collision with green Citroen Saxo on the A510 near the junction with Sidegate Lane at Wellingborough, Northamptonshire. Sustained injuries which proved fatal the following day.

Ashcroft was struck from behind by driver Angela Willshire, who did not see him despite his lights and high-visibility jacket, and who could not explain her error. At the time, her licence had been revoked by the DVLA (for reasons unknown) but she was allegedly unaware of this.

A collision investigator estimated that Aschroft would have been visible to Willshire for more than five seconds prior to the collision.

Legal summary

Willshire was convicted of causing death by careless driving on 23 November at Northampton Crown Court. She was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment (of which she is likely to serve half) and was banned from driving for two years.

James Stephenson

References on Delicious.

Incident summary

Involved in multiple vehicle collision on the A3 southbound at Bramshott, Hampshire, thought to be around the point where the pavement cycle path comes to an end.

Legal summary

A 33 year old Waterlooville man was arrested on on suspicion of causing death by careless driving and bailed until 8 April, but Hampshire Police concluded their investigations with no further action.

An inquest is due.

Comments

The particularly poor quality of cycle provision at this location is notable: it leads people for over 1km along a pavement alongside the carriageway before simply ceasing, dumping cyclists into a 70mph dual carriageway.

Further comments pending inquest.

William Logan (R v Whitmarsh)

References on Delicious.

Incident summary

Collision with car driven by Sophie Whitmarsh, on the A334 at Curdridge, Hampshire. Logan approached a junction where a side road joins, from which Whitmarsh proceeded across the give way line. This left Logan unable to avoid a collision and sending him across the car, injuring him fatally.

Legal summary

Whitmarsh was charged with causing death by careless driving and pleaded not guilty. The trial, at Southampton Crown Court, began on 20 April 2015 and Whitmarsh was found guilty on 24 April. Notably, the judge notably aired comments from the jury regarding the nature of the junction and the rate of recorded incidents at the location.

On May 12 2015, Whitmarsh was sentenced to a 12 month community order with six months supervision, a 100 hour unpaid work order and an 18 month driving ban, and was ordered to pay £1,000 in costs.

Comments

This case illustrates a few points. Firstly, the contributory factors of a high-risk location and substandard driving are not mutually exclusive (as queried by the first comment on the report of the verdict): it is quite unreasonable to expect all junctions to be optimal—indeed it is unreasonable to expect any to be perfect—and it should be reasonable to expect drivers to deal safely with sub-optimal junctions.

Secondly, we see again the phrase “a momentary lapse of concentration” (common in no small part due to its explicit mention in the sentencing guidelines), which is in most cases—and I intend no specific implication in this case—a euphemism for “a momentary lack of luck when doing something habitually unsafe”. This is often attributable to the third point…

Thirdly, the scenario described in reports of the event is one which can often be caused by lack of awareness of saccadic masking and other visual-cognitive issues. It is my firm belief that any education for road users, particularly users of fast and/or heavy (ie almost all motorised) vehicles, should place significant emphasis on making students aware of natural shortcomings, and teaching and enforcing techniques which address them. In other words: looking more than once, moving one’s head, and so on.

Other than where drivers are wilfully distracted by phones or other means, the incidence of “Smidsy” collisions can only really be reduced by the habituation of such techniques. Note, particularly, that Whitmarsh said “I looked absolutely everywhere I could. I couldn’t have done more.” It’s easy to wonder whether “looking everywhere” did indeed involve looking everywhere from multiple head positions, or whether it was just glancing in each direction once. If one isn’t aware of the cognitive shortcomings that we all share, then of course there is no reason to suppose that one “could have done more”. In other words, if you think looking in any given direction means you see everything in that direction—whether or not your retina receives the necessary photons—then you’re inevitably going to think that’s all that’s required. It’s not, and people need to be not just informed of this but habituated to address it.

In short: The system allows well-meaning people to believe that a certain degree of diligence is safe when in actual fact it is not. Whilst there is culpability in carelessness of this nature, the only useful way of addressing it is to address the system, because—as described in the article linked above—our individual brains are wired to misrepresent our perception of a scene.

As a final note, although this appears not to have been a factor in this incident, this highlights the need for cyclists—in the absence of good-quality infrastructure—to have the full width of the lane available when approaching and passing a junction. The intrusion of a vehicle from a side road, even at low speed, can have fatal consequences if it is not possible to swerve to avoid it. It is best for a cyclist to move towards the centre line on approach, but this option can easily be made unavailable if drivers behind are passing, or are close enough—or approaching rapidly enough—to suggest that a pass is imminent. It is important to note that a junction of any kind is a potentially hugely dangerous place to pass a cyclist even if the road ahead is entirely clear.