Richard Dawson: Lorry driver who killed motorcyclist avoids immediate imprisonment

On his first foray back to a Crown Court since lockdown began, Richard Dawson, instructed by John Ruane at DWF, secured the continued liberty of his lorry driver client.

The careless driver had driven across the path of an oncoming motorcycle, having failed to see it before turning.

Regrettably, this was a classic case of “looking but failing to see”.

The “looked but failed to see” error does not arise due to the physical environment but as a result of the drivers’ visual search strategy and/or mental processing. This is a real and prevalent perceptual phenomenon, particularly with regard to bicycles and motorcycles, which are less conspicuous. It may also be thought of as “over-attentional blindness”. It may occur if a driver is particularly focused, concentrating on the primary task – driving – so fails to notice a very salient object that is in the direct field of view.

It was noted that the “expectation” factor is also important. Some road users have a poor perceptual schema for motorcycles in the traffic scene. A driver may have a strong expectation to defer to other cars; however, not expecting to see a motorcycle, may fail to notice it, even when it is clearly present.

Safety campaigns that put the emphasis on drivers being more vigilant regarding motorcyclists (e.g. “Think Bike”) remain as relevant as ever.

This was a tragic case. The biker who lost his life was not at fault. The Court noted that this terrible accident was the result of short-lived inattention by an otherwise conscientious and careful professional driver. He had a good driving record and had shown genuine and heartfelt remorse. He had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity. It was recognised that, in all of the circumstances, immediate imprisonment would do more harm than good. Therefore a Suspended Sentence Order was imposed.

Richard Dawson is an expert trial lawyer, specialising in road traffic law and defending drivers charged with offences arising out of catastrophic injury and fatal accidents.

To view Richard’s full profile, click here.