The driver of a heavy goods vehicle was passing through East London. On his approach to a traffic light controlled junction the lights changed. He carried out an emergency braking procedure, stopping between two to four metres over the stop line and into the pedestrian crossing area. He was stationary for a minute and 15 seconds before the lights changed in his favour and he then proceeded through the junction. The driver failed to see an 83 year old pedestrian cross directly in front of him as the lights changed. His vehicle passed over her, causing fatal injuries.
The driver was charged with causing death by careless driving. The prosecution case was brought on the basis that the driver, having stopped on the crossing, should have taken greater care and it was possible that he could have seen the deceased for up to five seconds if he was looking in his mirrors at the relevant time.
The prosecution accident reconstruction evidence was agreed by the defence. The defence was brought on the basis that the driver had acted perfectly reasonably by carrying out an emergency braking manoeuvre in order to stop at the junction. Had he passed through the junction, the nature of the junction and the size of his vehicle meant that he would have blocked the junction when the lights changed in favour of the opposing traffic. The driver was not specifically aware that he stopped on the pedestrian crossing.
The checks he carried out prior to moving off were the normal checks that would have been expected from a careful and competent driver. The collision investigator on behalf of the prosecution also accepted that the mirrors on the vehicle, convex in nature, can cause images to be distorted. It can therefore be difficult to see pedestrians unless there is contrast e.g. a fluorescent jacket. It was also made clear that mirrors are driving aids, and goods vehicles still have numerous blind spots.
In just over an hour, the jury found the Defendant not guilty by way of a unanimous verdict. A Defendant’s costs order was made to be paid from Central Funds.
Read our article on Motor prosecution: importance of early support.