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Low sun and glare given as explanation for crash

A minibus driver who admitted hitting a cyclist with his wing mirror has been found not guilty of causing death by careless driving.

David Irving, a 48-year-old IT consultant from Wimborne in Dorset, died at the scene of the crash in Southampton on the morning of December 17, 2012.

Driver Steven Petterson, 38, said bright sunlight and glare stopped him from seeing Mr Irving.

After the verdict was announced, David Irving’s older brother Nick, 56, said: “David was a healthy and active person.

“He was a loved and dedicated father to two teenage daughters.

“He was a very keen cyclist and was very sporty, competent and fit and is missed by all the family.”

David Irving fell from his bike after he was hit by the Ford Transit minibus driven by Mr Petterson.

Moments later he was hit by a Mercedes and sustained severe head and chest injuries.

During the trial, Rufus Taylor, prosecuting, said Mr Irving was wearing an orange high-visibility jacket, an anklet with LED lights and lights on his bicycle at the time of the crash.

His cycle helmet was “smashed to bits”, the prosecutor added. The court heard that Mr Irving’s head injuries were consistent with being hit by a wing mirror.

When he was arrested in connection with the collision, Mr Petterson told police he had been “driving slowly” because of traffic.

“I was really blinded by the sun,” he told Southampton Crown Court. “Then I heard a bang. The wing mirror came in. There was a flash of red and in my mind I envisaged it was a bus sign. It was the first thing that came into my head, it was a red post.”

Mr Petterson pulled into a lay-by and got out of the minibus to see what had happened.

He added: “I looked back up the road but couldn’t see anything. I got back into the vehicle and drove off.”

He stopped again and called his father, who lives nearby, and asked him to investigate. After his father told him there were ambulances at the scene, Mr Petterson called the police.

“I didn’t know for certain it was a person. When I was told I was being arrested for causing someone’s death I broke down in tears. That’s when it really hit me.”

Collision investigator PC Ed Wilson told the court that Mr Petterson should have seen Mr Irving despite the bright sunlight.

After the court heard that CCTV images from earlier in the route showed that Mr Irving’s rucksack and the way he was leaning forward obscured a large part of his orange jacket, PC Wilson, under cross-examination said that Mr Irving would have been “virtually impossible” to see and may have “blended into the background”.

Witness Clive Jones told the court that the low sun and glare had been “blinding”. He was riding a scooter at the time of the crash and told the court: “I was doing about 40mph, no more than 45mph.

“It was blinding. My first reaction, if I couldn’t see, was to take my hand off the throttle. I was concerned about traffic going into the back of me.

“It all happened in such a quick time. It was just a whiteout.

“I couldn’t really see anything at that point. Even with my sun visor pulled down. It was the glare that just hit me.”

Mr Jones added that he was later able to “just make out tail lights” and he realised something had happened.

“In a split second, to my left, that’s when I thought I saw a person in the road.

“I wasn’t aware it was a cyclist. I hadn’t seen the cyclist prior to the accident.”

Mr Petterson told the court he had driven along the dual carriageway on and off for 20 years and he was taking his six-year-old daughter to school.

He said he had kept to the inside lane, was wearing sunglasses because of the conditions and had the sun visor down. He denied causing death by careless driving.

“I wasn’t doing anything in the vehicle to distract me. I was concentrating. I could just see the car in front with its lights on.”

“I didn’t think I was driving carelessly,” he said. “I was driving like I normally drive. If I had seen someone on a bike I would have made sure I would have driven around them.”

Reactions

Cycling charity CTC said it was deeply disappointed that the jury had not convicted. “The excuse of glare should not be an excuse – a careful and comptetent driver should drive to the conditions, slowing down and taking extra care if conditions are sunny,” CTC said.

Barrister Mark Florida-James, for Mr Petterson, said outside court: “This case is very tragic. There are no winners or losers.

“Mr Petterson is very sorry for what has happened and it just shows how hazardous driving is.”

Hampshire Constabulary said that it had been a “complex case [that] prompted a thorough investigation by the Road Death Investigation team.”

Senior investigating officer Sergeant Rob Heard said: “This case was always never to result in any winners or losers. It was a complex, extremely thorough and detailed investigation and everyone involved in the case has been affected by this tragedy. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to David Irving’s family at this difficult time.

“The case highlighted that motorists need to be aware of the possible presence of cyclists on our roads and ensure they pass them giving plenty of room. This case focussed on the low winter sun on the morning of the collision and how at times it had made the view ahead difficult to see for some depending on where you were on the road leading up to the collision location.

“David Irving was cycling legally on the road and was there to be seen. He had been seen by numerous motorists that day prior to the collision whilst he cycled in from Totton to West Quay in Southampton.

“The minibus driver stated in court that at no time had he seen Mr Irving on his bicycle after pulling out of Waterhouse Lane to join Mountbatten Way. A short while later the collision occurred.

“The case rested on the jury identifying why the driver failed to see Mr Irving and by failing to see him if this was careless or not.  The jury took nearly two days to consider the evidence before coming back with a not guilty verdict.

“I would ask that people do not make comment on the case without having listened to all the evidence given in court, which at times was complex.”

Sources: Numerous reports from the Southern Daily Echo

Commenters on this story should please keep in mind that the families of those involved may be reading.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

50 comments

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Bikebikebike [233 posts] 2 years ago
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Amazing. Just amazing.

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AyBee [85 posts] 2 years ago
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Disgraceful! RIP!  2

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Al__S [1044 posts] 2 years ago
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“Then I heard a bang. The wing mirror came in. There was a flash of red and in my mind I envisaged it was a bus sign. It was the first thing that came into my head, it was a red post.”

All signs are far enough back from the edge that you'd have to be on the pavement or verge to hit one.

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bikebot [1974 posts] 2 years ago
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It's difficult to understand why we have the separate charges of dangerous and careless driving. Every time one of these cases come up, the conclusion seems to be that there is no such thing as careless driving.

Was he breaking any specific traffic law at the time, such as speeding. No.

Did he take care to adapt his driving to the road conditions at the time. No.

There is something wrong with either the definition or the legal guidance to this law.

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bigbluebike [17 posts] 2 years ago
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So sad. But how many motorists do you know who actually prepare themselves for low winter sun by having sunglasses either on or in the car? Very few I imagine.

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mrmo [2080 posts] 2 years ago
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If it is blinding you slow down until you can see, if this means walking speed you drive at walking speed. How hard is this to understand. I would also ask why the following car was unable to stop? Were they driving too close as you see all too often? were they too driving too fast?

Without knowing specifics in this case, I also know too often cars have dirty windscreens and that make the situation in marginal light even worse, as a glasses wearer, even something as simple as dirty glasses makes a vast difference to what you can and can't see.

It is quite clear that a court of drivers will never convict a driver if there is any "reasonable excuse". "there by the grace of god go I"

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jacknorell [966 posts] 2 years ago
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Hmm, driving 40mph (judging by the scooter driver referenced) when forward visibility is severely restricted due to glare...?

That seems pretty senseless to me, I certainly wouldn't be comfortable doing that on a city / suburban street.

Speed limits are a maximum, not a target!

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jmaccelari [241 posts] 2 years ago
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It seems the courts will scrape the barrel for any excuse to absolve a driver when a cyclist is killed. There is no such thing as culpability. If you can't see, slow down until you can. It's like driving in fog or rain, FFS!

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mrmo [2080 posts] 2 years ago
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hadn't thought about this before, but reading one of the comments in the newspaper.

Why did the minibus hit the cyclist with a wing mirror?

Think about it, in light of yesterday ASA fiasco.

Ride in the gutter you are harder to see, ride further out and you easier to see.

Did the minibus hit a rider in the gutter, hence the wing mirror. Or did the minibus see the rider move over, but not enough and then hit the cyclist.

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RedfishUK [132 posts] 2 years ago
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“I was really blinded by the sun,” he told Southampton Crown Court. “Then I heard a bang. The wing mirror came in. There was a flash of red and in my mind I envisaged it was a bus sign. It was the first thing that came into my head, it was a red post.”

Mr Petterson pulled into a lay-by and got out of the minibus to see what had happened.

He added: “I looked back up the road but couldn’t see anything. I got back into the vehicle and drove off.”

This simply doesn't make sense, he hits something which he later claims to be clipping a Bus stop sign....but thinks it sufficient to actually stop further up the road ?

He looked up the road but couldn't see anything..but we know the cyclist was hit by the car behind which presumably stopped. So he looked back up the road and couldn't see a car which had stopped for an accident???

All sounds very odd and inconsistent

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StoopidUserName [177 posts] 2 years ago
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As usual the driver has been deeply affected by this etc etc etc.

But not so deeply affected as to volunteer his license to be revoked for a time...may as well p*ss on the cyclists grave while you're at it...

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StoopidUserName [177 posts] 2 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

If it is blinding you slow down until you can see, if this means walking speed you drive at walking speed. How hard is this to understand.

+1,000,000

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earth [301 posts] 2 years ago
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As cyclists we need to prepare ourselves as well.

Right out of my door on the commute to work I ride directly into the sun and find it hard to see. I know I am at risk of being hit from behind so I clip a light to my rucsac and use it in daylight. I'm trying to think of other things I can do.

What I mean is you have little ability to effect the behavior of strangers but absolute ability to effect your own behavior. So although it may not work, you still have to try.

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Saratoga [37 posts] 2 years ago
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It seems this is another demonstration that the entire UK justice system (police, CPS, magistrates, judges and juries) have completely failed cyclists. I lost my faith in the UK justice system in this area a long time ago.

Sadly, a jury of motorists is never going to be impartial until attitudes to bad driving improve. It's just unacceptable that careless/dangerous driving is condoned on any level.

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twinklydave [27 posts] 2 years ago
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"Low sun and glare given as explanation for crash"

Seems like a perfectly reasonable excuse for sending the killer to jail.

Anything else is just a shambolic failure on the part of the "Justice System".

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McDuff73 [78 posts] 2 years ago
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sad indictment of the low regard the judicial system has for the life of cylists.

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AWPeleton [3347 posts] 2 years ago
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Very sad indeed, my thoughts are with the family.

I've been to enough accidents where glare is involved to realise it does happen no matter how safe a driver you are.

Unfortunately this will happen again and no amount of change in legislation will alter it.

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twinklydave [27 posts] 2 years ago
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A quick glance on Google suggests it's not just cyclists who are expendable: http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/Low-sun-blinded-driver-fatal-Hanley-crash...

Not being able to see where you are going is fine. I guess we'll just have to get over it. I certainly will whenever I drive from now on  102

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thereverent [413 posts] 2 years ago
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Another case of the Justice System failing.

If it was that bright with glare on the road then you drive slower (a lot slower) not at 40mph. If you can only see at 20mph, then drive at 20mph.
Highway Code Rule 237:
"If you are dazzled by bright sunlight, slow down and if necessary, stop."

Also if the driver thought he had hit a bus sign but didn't stop, why was he not charged with Failing to stop at the scence of an accident (as you have to stop if you have hit road furniture)?

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gw [44 posts] 2 years ago
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McDuff73 wrote:

sad indictment of the low regard the judicial system has for the life fathers, sons, husbands.....

Fixed it for you.

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a_to_the_j [118 posts] 2 years ago
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a disgrace.

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congokid [266 posts] 2 years ago
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“This case is very tragic. There are no winners or losers"

according to the driver's barrister.

That's a relief. For a minute I thought someone had died in the incident...

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Sevenfold [44 posts] 2 years ago
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No doubt a jury full of car drivers...  102

This is becoming an all too frequent excuse for killing - "Sorry, I could not see you as the sun was in my eyes so I carried on driving at 40-45mph"

Picked this up from Twitter...

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29erKeith [39 posts] 2 years ago
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He thought "it was a bus stop" my arse!!!

he's local and has driven that road 100's of times, there has never been a bus stop anywhere even near there.

If you can't see, you slow down.

Just sad! RIP

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arfa [761 posts] 2 years ago
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+1 the reverent. I see no point in including the Highway code in driving tests if our judicial system is just going to ignore it. The guidance is unequivocal, if you can't see, stop. The driver didn't do this and a man lies dead as a result. I am shocked and can only offer my condolences to his family. At the very least, I struggle to see how the driver can retain his licence.

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STATO [508 posts] 2 years ago
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Not wanting to stir the hornets nest but you can be driving along fine then suddenly have glare from the sun (previously blocked by trees etc.). Hence why the article probably included this bit which most seem to be ignoring.

"Witness Clive Jones told the court that the low sun and glare had been “blinding”. He was riding a scooter at the time of the crash and told the court: “I was doing about 40mph, no more than 45mph.

“It was blinding. My first reaction, if I couldn’t see, was to take my hand off the throttle. I was concerned about traffic going into the back of me.

“It all happened in such a quick time. It was just a whiteout."

Drivers should slow down, but if you can't predict when are we suggesting everyone (that would have to include us?) travel at 10mph all the time?

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Jimmy Ray Will [475 posts] 2 years ago
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What a sad day, another sad day for our justice system.

Lets be honest, the driver in question never meant to hit the cyclist, so I am sure all regret is genuine. Accordingly, I genuinely believe the driver will feel he had done nothing wrong, so understand why he will defend his corner.

I do question some of the details around not seeing what he'd hit, but as I was not in court, haven't seen all the evidence, I can't comment.

What I can comment on is how poorly these trials are managed. As mentioned previously, what jury is going to convict in this instance? We can all put ourselves in the drivers shoes, we've all had moments driving when we've thought, 'hell thank god there was nothing on the road then!'.

On that basis, would you you criminalise someone for doing what you know you've done?

The CPS need to change the parameters for judging these cases and make it far more balck and white for juries.

That said, would a custodial sentence be appropriate? I don't know. What I do know is that to not convict sends a clear message to all, that not being able to see is fine, crack on. Everytime one of these cases gets a not-guilty verdict, the chances of a guilty verdict diminish... the CPS need to address this now.

RIP

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GoingRoundInCycles [133 posts] 2 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

If it is blinding you slow down until you can see, if this means walking speed you drive at walking speed. How hard is this to understand. I would also ask why the following car was unable to stop? Were they driving too close as you see all too often? were they too driving fast?

Well to be fair, you seemed to have trouble understanding the concept of cycling at walking pace around pedestrians on the Sustrans Bristol - Bath issue, you know, the one where an adult cyclist ploughed into a child and broke his collar bone because he was travelling too fast and was unable to stop? What's the difference?

I have no idea whether this is the right verdict or not and although not perfect, I prefer trial by jury to any other system, but perhaps there is a case for the police to use independent cycling expert witnesses at accident scenes to better get a cyclist's perspective on the cause of an accident?

RIP Mr Irving and sincere condolences to your family and friends.

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pgwsheffield [5 posts] 2 years ago
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Yes driving is dangerous, you kill a cyclist and then drive off and you get away with it. I am sure the victims family share your concerns.

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racyrich [257 posts] 2 years ago
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I genuinely hope the members of the jury get run over through no fault of their own. Then they might have a fleeting chance to consider what careless driving means.

Did they really, really believe it's possible to drive entirely correctly and responsibly and still hit and kill someone?

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