Charges dropped against driver who killed cyclist after apparently fainting

Experts say driver may have fainted while at wheel of Range Rover

by Simon_MacMichael   January 12, 2010  

Gavel

After the collision, the Range Rover continued in a straight line, going over a roundabout, before hitting another car and finally coming to rest against a lamppost.

According to the Daily Mail, the driver, 35-year-old Tracy Johnson, got out of her vehicle in a “shocked and dazed” state, asking: “What happened?”
Investigators discovered that Mrs Johnson had used her mobile phone to make a 40-second call to her husband three minutes before the collision, but there was no suggestion that she had been using the phone when the crash happened.

Mrs Johnson had pleaded not guilty at a preliminary hearing last year to the charge of causing death by dangerous driving, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment.

But yesterday, a pre-trial hearing at Chester Crown Court heard that medical experts from both the defence and prosecution were in agreement that Mrs Johnson was not conscious when her vehicle hit Mrs Corless on the morning of 27 September 2008.

The driver is thought to have suffered a reflex syncope, a common condition affecting around one in two people during their lifetime, which can cause the heart rate to slow and blood vessels to dilate, leading to less blood reaching the brain which can cause fainting or blackouts.

The victim’s husband, who suffered injuries to his legs, pelvis, back and head, and who has not been able to return yet to hus work within the steel trade, said the family was disappointed that the case would not be going to trial.

“Our lives have been turned upside down,” said Mr Corless, “but at least the prosecution would have meant a judge and jury hearing the evidence as to what happened and ultimately some justice for Sharon.

'Now that won't happen and until I receive a proper explanation of the supposed "medical condition" that caused Tracy Johnson to hit us, I remain bitterly disappointed that the prosecution has been dropped’” he continued.

Mr Johnson added: “To say we are devastated by Sharon's death is an understatement. She was the focal point of the family, a fabulous wife and wonderful mum.”

David Potter, for the prosecution, said: “'For reasons that defy a reasonable explanation, the defendant's vehicle began to accelerate towards the roundabout. Witnesses behind the vehicle said at no stage did they see brake lights come on.”

Referring to the expert evidence provided, Mr Potter explained: “Consultant cardiologist Dr Adam Fitzpatrick produced a report in which he said she was likely to have suffered an abrupt episode of syncope at the wheel. He took the view that on the balance of probability Tracy Johnson was not in conscious control of the vehicle.”

Judge Elgan Edwards, dismissing the case, said: “This court has seen many, many sad cases. This is one of saddest cases that has come before the court. This was a tragedy for all involved, it continues to be a tragedy for all. Lives continued to be ruined and one life was lost.”

He continued: “If this case had gone to trial it would not have led to a prosecution. No jury properly directed could be sure with this evidence that the defendant was guilty.”

4 user comments

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Just posted this on the forum - so you did beat me to it this time.
Terrible story and I'm not sure what to think about it. Witnesses said that the vehicle was out of control, which does suggest the driver did faint. But that can't be acceptable to the family of the victim.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2137 posts]
12th January 2010 - 10:28

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This kind of incident is the biggest reason that the concept of 'operating risk' needs to be introduced over here, like it is on the continent. Driving a car is not just dangerous because people do it badly – it's inherently dangerous, especially to more vulnerable road users, as is demonstrated in tragic cases like this one. Drivers should be insured for that inherent risk, so that people can be compensated in accidents like this. It's not about who's 'at fault' - simply a sensible approach to risk.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7271 posts]
12th January 2010 - 11:05

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dave_atkinson wrote:
This kind of incident is the biggest reason that the concept of 'operating risk' needs to be introduced over here, like it is on the continent. Driving a car is not just dangerous because people do it badly – it's inherently dangerous, especially to more vulnerable road users, as is demonstrated in tragic cases like this one. Drivers should be insured for that inherent risk, so that people can be compensated in accidents like this. It's not about who's 'at fault' - simply a sensible approach to risk.

Excellent comment.
A point often missed in the cars v.cyclists blame game.

neilwheel's picture

posted by neilwheel [130 posts]
12th January 2010 - 11:18

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We are asked not to drive when fatigued! surely any reasonable person would pull over at the first signs of a health problem!
but drivers are not reasonable people as when they get behind the wheel they are in their "cocoon", they tune out,read the paper, look at their phone,look at all the gadgetry in the car but forget they are driving a "lethal weapon"! we have all been there, i know of at least one occasion on the autobann i deserve a kicking for, "there but for the grace of god" does not answer the incident.
Bringing back the victim is not on and discharging the perpetrator is not either.
the family receiving compensation would quite rightly feel they were being bought off!

just watch "skiers" after lunch and you will see how most think of their driving abilities!

Education is only part of the answer,attitude is also,but diligence in observing all the road rules and consideration to all aspects of the journey helps.

visit www.parrabuddy.blogspot.com and follow www.twitter.com/skippydetour to continue this story.

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

skippy's picture

posted by skippy [380 posts]
12th January 2010 - 20:27

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