Sunday 28 October 2012

Killing of pedestrian hit by taxi driver on mobile phone ‘an accident’

Scrutinising the figures for prosecutions in London relating to deaths and injuries on the roads, Joe Dunckley asks why the far lower response rate to deaths than to injuries? Could it be that silent witnesses can't explain that they did not, in fact, "come out of nowhere"? 

It is not infrequently the case that the only witness to the killing of a cyclist or a pedestrian is the driver who killed them.

In the absence of black box data recorders there is no objective evidence about speed or driver behaviour prior to a collision.

It is also the case that while cycling on pavements generates a huge amount of commentary, with people regularly reporting being ‘almost killed’, the actual violent killing of pedestrians rarely evokes any commentary at all. Here’s an example from an inquest a few days ago:

Gary Turner, 44, was run over in the early hours of New Year's Day as he was walking towards his home in Parklands, Coopersale, after a night drinking at the Black Lion pub in Epping with friends. 

Taxi driver Martin Hignett told an inquest at Shire Hall, Chelmsford, yesterday, that he had no chance to react before he hit Mr Turner on the B181 Epping Road near the Coopersale junction shortly after 3am. He said it was not raining and he could see no other vehicles or pedestrians, so he was driving between 50mph and 55mph. 

“I saw some movement towards my left,” he added. “It was almost in front of me when I realised it was a man and I had no time to react at all. 

Mr Hignett said he had been using a hands-free mobile phone device while driving, but crash investigator Pc Steve Burton did not believe this had made a difference. 


Drivers using the legal alternative to hand-held mobiles are 30 per cent slower to react than those slightly over the limit, tests found. And for up to ten minutes after a conversation their reflexes remain dulled, according to the Transport Research Laboratory. 

Other research indicating that the use of hands-free mobile phones reduces a driver’s concentration is described here.