A lorry driver who struck and killed a 71-year-old cyclist has been jailed for seven months after pleading guilty to causing death by careless driving.
Great-grandfather and keen cyclist David Bates was riding his bike on the A515 near Ashbourne in September 2019 when he was hit by 41-year-old Richard Smith, who has also been banned from driving for 27 months, reports the Derbyshire Times.
Derby Crown Court heard that lorry driver Smith was travelling at 45mph in a 40mph zone at the time of the fatal collision. The motorist had also experienced a near miss three minutes before the crash, when he was forced to take evasive action and “move over the white centre line” after driving too closely behind a speeding driver in a Peugeot van.
According to an expert, Smith would have had between four and six seconds to avoid hitting the cyclist, but failed to do so.
The court also heard that the motorist had a previous conviction for driving without due care and attention from December 2016, after crashing into a bridge on the A38 which was too low for the vehicle he was driving.
Smith had initially denied causing death by dangerous driving, but in May admitted the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving.
Judge Jonathan Bennett told the driver: “This was not a prolonged case of very bad driving… Was there inappropriate speed? Yes, it’s not excessive speed but you were driving at above the speed limit.
“Unfortunately, the whole issue about this case is that you just did not see him, full stop. You did not realise what happened until you had hit him – you had not got a clue. You just didn’t see him.
“I suggest this was a case of momentary inattention, the visibility on the road on that day was absolutely fine. Another lorry driver some distance ahead saw the cyclist and moved over – you just did not see him.”
He concluded: “It is the responsibility of every driver to be aware of other vehicles – particularly those in front of them.”
Smith’s defence counsel Timothy Pole said that his client was “deeply sorry” for what happened, which he claimed has had a significant impact on his mental health. Since the fatal collision, Smith has attempted an overdose and has been cared for under the Mental Health Act.
Following the sentencing, the judge described Mr Bates, a retired builder and recent great-grandfather as “a very active man and one of the things he loved to do was ride his bike, as he was riding on this occasion.
“This is a tragedy for his family – they miss him dreadfully and had no chance to say farewell. No punishment I can impose is going to alleviate the sadness and tragedy of the loss and premature death of such a loved man.”
Mr Bates’ daughter Margaret Burton described her father as someone who was “young at heart and full of life” who would “think nothing of cycling 50 miles”, and that his tragic death “broke our hearts”.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.