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Driver jailed for killing cyclist sent text message 34 seconds before 999 call, phone analysis shows

Alexander Martin has been jailed for five years having hit 65-year-old Stephen Lawrence before continuing for 70 metres with the bike under his car

A driver found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving for hitting and killing a cyclist has been jailed for five years after phone analysis showed he sent a text message just seconds before the fatal collision.

Alexander Martin, 31, hit and killed 65-year-old Stephen Lawrence in a crash in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, at around 6pm on 12 April 2021, the motorist knocking the cyclist onto the windscreen before continuing for 70 metres along the road with the rider's bike underneath his car.

Mr Lawrence was, Ipswich Crown Court heard, wearing bright orange high-visibility clothing at the time, but was not seen and suffered serious injuries and died at the scene, ITV reports.

Martin claimed he had not seen the cyclist as he was blinded by the sun, however the jury rejected his explanation of events having heard evidence obtained by analysing the driver's phone.

Suffolk Police said that before the collision Martin stopped at a petrol station and was seen to be looking down at something as he left the forecourt. 

Analysis of his mobile phone found that the motorist had sent a message 34 seconds before a 999 call was made to report the crash, something Martin denied, arguing the data was not accurate.

The vehicle involved was also deemed to have a dirty and unsafe windscreen, the driver's side windscreen wiper broken.

Commenting on the case, Mark Bassett, a sergeant with Suffolk Police said they were left "in no doubt" that distraction played a part in Mr Lawrence's death.

"The phone data analysis proved that Alexander Martin sent a message just prior to or at the time of the collision and we are in no doubt that the distraction caused by his phone – combined with the dirty windscreen – are the reasons why he failed to see Mr Lawrence," he said.

"Martin has failed to show any true remorse for his actions and the devastating impact they have caused and I hope that his conviction and today's sentence brings some comfort to Mr Lawrence's family.

"We regularly run campaigns regarding the risks of driving and using a mobile phone because it is extremely dangerous and results in numerous collisions, some of which – as in this case – have fatal consequences.

"This was a tragic and completely avoidable collision, which has resulted in a loving family having a husband, father and grandfather torn away from them."

Martin was banned from driving for five-and-a-half years. In February, the government announced a 'Call for Evidence' after a now-closed petition called for lifetime driving bans for offenders convicted of causing death by dangerous driving.

The petition was started by Angela Burke, whose 14-year-old daughter Courtney Ellis was killed in 2020 by speeding driver Brandon Turton. The 21-year-old driver was subsequently jailed for six years and nine months after pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, and banned from driving for seven years.

"I would like to change the law on if you are convicted for causing death by dangerous driving then a lifetime driving ban should be imposed, they should never be allowed to drive again," she said. "My child was killed by a speeding driver, who was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving.

"My child suffered horrific instant death injuries, the driver was driving at speeds of 73-93mph when he hit her on a 30mph road, he was sentenced to nine years minus 25 per cent reduction for going guilty and was also given a seven-year driving ban to start immediately. 

"When he's released he will have four years of the ban left. Driving is a luxury and it should be taken away if convicted of this crime. I've lost my child forever."

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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26 comments

Avatar
hutchdaddy | 8 months ago
5 likes

"Martin claimed he had not seen the cyclist as he was blinded by the sun" This sort of crap should not be allowed, it's driving dangerously from the start. If he was "blinded by the sun" he must slow down to a safe speed.

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hawkinspeter replied to hutchdaddy | 8 months ago
4 likes

hutchdaddy wrote:

"Martin claimed he had not seen the cyclist as he was blinded by the sun" This sort of crap should not be allowed, it's driving dangerously from the start. If he was "blinded by the sun" he must slow down to a safe speed.

It's an admission of incompetence and should be treated as such.

You wouldn't be able to pass a driving test if you used that as an excuse for poor driving, so why should it work for a more serious case?

(I think too many driving cases seem to be deciding on the intention/malice of the driver rather than their competence. e.g. momentary distraction, otherwise law abiding, didn't see)

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NOtotheEU replied to hutchdaddy | 8 months ago
3 likes

It's fortunate the police examined his phone records as otherwise this excuse would have probably worked.

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PRSboy | 8 months ago
7 likes

I saw a bloke driving his SUV at 75mph on the middle lane of the M4 on Saturday, tapping away on his iPad which was perched on the steering wheel.

Just beggars belief.

Its time they made device usage at the wheel as unacceptable as drink-driving, i.e driving ban.

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Jimmy Ray Will | 8 months ago
1 like

I wonder what the sentence would have been if the victim was a pretty young female, rather than an older man on a bike?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-66403095

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PRSboy replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 8 months ago
2 likes

It may be a function of when the crime was committed... I think the max sentence was increased for crimes which occured after June '22

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quiff replied to PRSboy | 8 months ago
3 likes

According to the report Jimmy linked to, the maximum went up from 14 years to life, but the solicitor expresses disappointment that he didn't even get the old maximum - he got 12 years for killing a pregnant woman by driving one handed at 123mph while using his other hand to film it. 

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Capercaillie replied to quiff | 8 months ago
1 like

And leaving 2 young boys in comas, with their long term futures uncertain.

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cyclisto | 8 months ago
9 likes

A worrying situation is that the car industry enhances somehow reduced awareness with some recent changes. Fat A-pillars than increase passive safety for car occupants, but reduce visibility, complex infotainment systems, with touch screens that require eyes off the road.

If you add bigger dimensions, much greater horsepower, any safety gains from electronics driver aid may be fully mitigated

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hawkinspeter replied to cyclisto | 8 months ago
1 like

cyclisto wrote:

A worrying situation is that the car industry enhances somehow reduced awareness with some recent changes. Fat A-pillars than increase passive safety for car occupants, but reduce visibility, complex infotainment systems, with touch screens that require eyes off the road.

If you add bigger dimensions, much greater horsepower, any safety gains from electronics driver aid may be fully mitigated

A big problem with touch screens is that they're going to be very difficult to use by drivers with eyesight issues (e.g. legally blind, cataracts etc).

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cyclisto replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
2 likes

Sure but I think (no medical expert here) but these people would already fail health checks for driving.

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hawkinspeter replied to cyclisto | 8 months ago
3 likes

cyclisto wrote:

Sure but I think (no medical expert here) but these people would already fail health checks for driving.

Have you seen the standard of driving?

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cyclisto replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
1 like

To be honest yes sometimes, seems like blind people driving, but I think they are more dangerous the distracted drivers in big numbers, rather the old guys driving super predictably at 10mph.

Yes I understand that there will be many people who will not see well and not being checked, but I think their bigger problem wil be not being able to see the road not their screens.

Also shame to the motor industry that made 500miles electric cars and self driving cars for having forgoten windscreen cleaning technology practically unchanged the last century.

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wtjs replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
4 likes

A big problem with touch screens is that they're going to be very difficult to use by drivers with eyesight issues (e.g. legally blind, cataracts etc)

I think HP has received insufficient credit for this analysis of otherwise inexplicable UK driving behaviours. However, he has failed himself to give due weight to the value of car choice as an indicator of criminality and psychopathy issues (MOT expired a month ago)

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chrisonabike replied to wtjs | 8 months ago
1 like

I'm not a car buff - does that logo represent two pairs of handcuffs?

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peted76 | 8 months ago
7 likes

This lying scumbag deserves a harsher punishment. 

Once again, a gutless driving ban 'tagged on' to the sentence as some sort of limp wristed punishment. 

When driving is seen as a privilege and not a right in this country, things will change.. We need that very realistic and easy step change to happen. Once people realise that if they break the law there may be life chaning consequences, only then will our roads get safer.

 

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Rendel Harris | 8 months ago
18 likes

A copy of this judgment should be sent to every idiot who whines about "vigilantes" reporting drivers for using their devices in stationary or slow-moving traffic, saying "what's the harm?" Clear evidence of the distraction effect that continues even after the phone has been put down.

Condolences to Mr Lawrence's friends and family.

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wycombewheeler replied to Rendel Harris | 8 months ago
7 likes

Rendel Harris wrote:

A copy of this judgment should be sent to every idiot who whines about "vigilantes" reporting drivers for using their devices in stationary or slow-moving traffic, saying "what's the harm?" Clear evidence of the distraction effect that continues even after the phone has been put down.

Condolences to Mr Lawrence's friends and family.

while I agree with the distraction effect

"Analysis of his mobile phone found that the motorist had sent a message 34 seconds before a 999 call was made to report the crash"

34 seconds to put the phone down, hit the cyclist, come to a stop, get out, survey the damage and then call 999 suggests he was likely texting until it was too late to avoid the impact.

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quiff replied to wycombewheeler | 8 months ago
2 likes

wycombewheeler wrote:

"Analysis of his mobile phone found that the motorist had sent a message 34 seconds before a 999 call was made to report the crash"

34 seconds to put the phone down, hit the cyclist, come to a stop, get out, survey the damage and then call 999 suggests he was likely texting until it was too late to avoid the impact.

Not entirely clear from that report if it was actually him that made the 999 call, but agree it seems likely he was still on phone

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cyclisto replied to Rendel Harris | 8 months ago
2 likes

If he had been dragging him for 70m, I guess he most likely used his phone while driving.

The scenario that he used his phone in a stationary car at a traffic jam, then the traffic stopped, he put the phone down, accelarated while still being distracted by his stationary car phone use and because of that persistent distraction dragged down that unlucky guy for 70m seems unlikely to happen.

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 8 months ago
16 likes

I very rarely drive. Perhaps 1000 miles a year in the city. The other day I drove a 5 mile journey in London and for most of it the driver behind me was on the phone. I was shocked because on the bike you don't really see this a) becuase on a cycle I am moving faster than the traffic b) I don't have a rear view mirror to c) I'm not 'stuck' in the traffic flow on a cycle 

I thought to myself - this is obviously going on when I am cycling too. About 30% (according to my anecdotal evidence) of van and car drivers are on their mobile devices and any one of them, on any day could simply drive into a cyclist or pedestrian or motorcyclist. 

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Surreyrider replied to BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 8 months ago
4 likes

It's standard practice in Surrey. And even more prevalent in traffic queues (plenty of them) as it would appear that doesn't count as driving.

Condolences to the family.

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wtjs replied to Surreyrider | 8 months ago
6 likes

It's standard practice in Surrey

Mikey has it easy! There aren't many queues round here, so catching them is difficult, but Lancashire Constabulary refuses to do anything about phone offences anyway, even when they're driving at 40 'on the phone' with good evidence and GPS timing (corresponds within a second with phone network time)

https://upride.cc/incident/kd10wer_porsche_mobilephone/

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quiff replied to BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 8 months ago
1 like

There's a double whammy effect - when I notice this in my rear view mirror, I have to fight not to let it distract me too...

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Cycle Happy | 8 months ago
14 likes

From the more detailed report at https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/23698673.newmarket-alexander-martin-jailed-b...
"Judge Peters said Martin, who was driving home from work, had "ploughed" into Mr Lawrence catapulting him through the air causing fatal injuries after sending a three-letter text saying: “Yup”.

She accepted there was no prolonged or persistent bad driving and no suggestion of him speeding or using alcohol or drugs."

There was prolonged persistent bad driving. His vehicle was not maintained and in a dangerous state. That didn't just happen and his windscreen magically get dirty in a matter of seconds. And his speed was clearly too fast for his very low standard of driving and dangerously maintained vehicle.

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Cycle Happy | 8 months ago
19 likes

So the scumbag who killed Courtney Wood got (only) 6 and a half years after pleading guilty whilst this selfish asshole pleads not guilty but is convicted of the same offence but only gets 5 years plus measly ban despite pleading not guilty and having no remorse. I don't know each offenders driving history, but where is the consistency in that sentencing. He was using his phone and his vehicle was in a dangerous state. 5 years is a disgracefully lenient sentence.

Sincerest condolences to Mr Lawrence's family.

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