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Would van driver who killed cyclist have been cleared of causing death by careless driving had the victim been a pedestrian?

Cycling UK questions jury’s decision

Cycling UK has questioned the findings of a Reading Crown Court jury after a van driver was cleared of causing death by careless driving following a collision with a cyclist. The Windsor Express reports that Jeremiah O’Shea hit and killed Fred Dowling on Winkfield Road, Windsor on January 5, 2017.

Questioned about driving conditions, O’Shea said that it was still ‘very dark’ at the time of the collision. He said he was aware of the speed limit and there were no vehicles in front or behind.

O’Shea kept his reading glasses on a shelf near the speedometer of his vehicle and glanced down to check they were there.

“I glanced to where my speedometer is. After I looked back up, maybe a second, I saw my headlight beam pick up a dark shape which was Mr Dowling. To my horror and terror I couldn’t do anything but hit my brakes.”

O’Shea said he let out an involuntarily scream as he braked firmly with both hands on the wheel.

After hitting Dowling, he got out and called an ambulance.

Dowling had been wearing a fluorescent yellow jacket and helmet and his bike had multiple front and rear lights.

Prosecutor Rossano Scamardella asked why O’Shea had failed to see him after several motorists who had previously given evidence said they overtook safely and without incident.

Asked whether he had been distracted by music, or by something on the windscreen, or whether it was just a lapse in concentration, O’Shea replied: “No, the fact was he was not very well lit up on a very dark road and wasn’t there to be seen.”

Andrew Taylor, who had taken overtaken Dowling earlier the same morning, said he had only spotted the cyclist when he was ‘two to three metres away’ and had to manoeuvre around him at the last moment.

He said Dowling’s fluorescent jacket was ‘dirty’ and described seeing only a ‘narrow’ red light on the back of his bike.

Commenting on the verdict, Cycling UK Policy Director Roger Geffen, said:

“If the driver had hit and killed a pedestrian, he surely would not have got away with pleading innocence because they weren’t brightly clothed and lit. It surely cannot be an acceptable defence for killing a cyclist who was reportedly following all the rules.

“Other drivers were able to spot Mr Dowling and avoid hitting him. Cycling UK would argue Mr O’Shea’s failure to do so was surely not just ‘careless’ but ‘dangerous’.

“Cycling UK believes cases like these spell out why we need a full review of road traffic offences and sentencing.”

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