Jason MacIntyre Fatal Accident Inquiry finds van driver entirely to blame

But Sheriff also calls for all cyclists to wear helmets and high viz clothing on public roads

by Tony Farrelly   May 20, 2010  

Jason_McIntyre_2780217.jpg

A fatal accident inquiry in to the death of top Scottish time trialliist Jason MacIntyre
has found that the driver of the van that hit him was entirely to blame for the collision.

However in comments that may perturb some cyclists Sheriff Douglas Small who conducted the inquiry also recommended that all cyclists should wear helmets and high viz clothing when on public roads – even though he admitted that neither would have saved Jason MacIntyre who was not wearing a helmet at the time of his death.

"Although Jason's death could not have been avoided by him wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, all cyclists, including those in training, should wear a helmet when on public roads," the sheriff said in his findings.

However Sheriff Small apportioned no blame to Mr MacIntyre's clothing in deciding who was at fault. Highland Council had argued that death was a "tragic accident" that might have been avoided had Jason MacIntyre been wearing high visibility clothing.

"I am of the opinion that no cause, apart from the failure on the part of Mr MacTaggart to see Mr MacIntyre, can be identified.

"I am satisfied that Mr MacTaggart's failure arose as a consequence of him not keeping a proper look-out of the road ahead of him when he turned across Mr MacIntyre's path," he said.

In a statement responding to the findings of the inquiry Jason's widow, Caroline said:

“No helmet in the world would have saved Jason, and I believe he was perfectly visible, and McTaggart would not have seen him, whatever he was wearing.”

“I am really pleased that the Sheriff took on board our arguments that there should be a traffic island on the mouth of the junction to stop drivers cutting the corner at the spot where Jason died.”

Jason MacIntyre's death not only deprived Caroline of a husband, but their twin daughters of a father - they were eight years old at the time of his death, Caroline MacIntyre said that is was for their sakes that she had pressed for this inquiry.
“I wanted to be able to face my daughters when they grow up and tell them hand on heart that I left no stone unturned in finding out how their daddy died, and I feel I have done that.

“I am really glad I fought so hard for this Inquiry even though I have to accept that I lost a wonderful husband and a loving father just because of another driver’s complete carelessness and lack of concentration.”

Caroline MacIntyre will now carry on her legal fight against Highland Council and Mr McTaggart at the Court of Session in Edinburgh where she is seeking £500,000 in compensation.

Jason MacIntyre was killed in January 2008 towards the end of a training ride on the outskirts of Fort William when a Highlands Council Van driven by Robert McTaggart turned in to him. McTaggart was subsequently fined £500 and banned from driving for six months after pleading guilty of a charge of careless driving.

Commenting on the Sherrif's remarks regarding helemets CTC Campaigns Coordinator Debra Rolfe said:

“Despite the Sheriff’s acknowledgement that a helmet would not have made any difference in saving Jason McIntyre’s life, he still mentioned that cyclists should wear helmets and hi-viz. CTC is dismayed that the Sheriff’s comments appeared to accuse Jason of playing some part in his death. The only danger in this case came not from what Jason was or was not wearing, but from a driver who pleaded guilty to careless driving. CTC campaigns for the judicial system to take bad driving seriously to make our roads safer for everyone. In order to get a better understanding of what happens to drivers who are involved in crashes with cyclists, CTC is collating data about bad driving for the Stop SMIDSY campaign. We urge every cyclist to take part. You can find out more at www.stop-smidsy.org.uk.”

12 user comments

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A very peculiar ruling.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
20th May 2010 - 12:31

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It doesn't seem too odd to me:

- It acknowledges that sometimes drivers go into a 'daze' and simply do not pay enough attention to their surroundings.
- It acknowledges that Jason MacIntyre was at fault in no way.
- It reiterates highway code rule 59: that cyclists 'should' wear a helmet and reflective clothing (not 'must').

What I think needs to clarified and is the impact of driving 'carelessly', people die. I don't think the sentences which we've seen handed out recently go any way to reflecting this (£500 fine and a 6 month ban in this case) - I find that utterly disgusting.

posted by dlp [51 posts]
20th May 2010 - 13:00

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The high visibility thing is an odd one.

There are hundreds, thousands of collisions involving vehicles and pedestrians. Why dont law makers and judges insist on cars all being fluorescent yellow? Why dont pedestrians get rough justice for not wearing helmets?

not all carbon is the same.

Jon Burrage's picture

posted by Jon Burrage [1080 posts]
20th May 2010 - 13:02

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Your story is wrong in paragraph 2. The Sheriff said Jason could have survived if he had been wearing high visibility clothing. In his judgement, he singles out the black woollen hat he was wearing at the time of the accident

posted by pdrury [2 posts]
20th May 2010 - 13:49

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On re-reading it doesn't actually mention in the quoted text that Sheriff Small explicitly states cyclists should wear hi-viz clothing:

"...all cyclists, including those in training, should wear a helmet when on public roads..."

In fact he then goes on to say

"...I am of the opinion that no cause, apart from the failure on the part of Mr MacTaggart to see Mr MacIntyre, can be identified.".

Even if he were to state that cyclists should wear a helmet and hi-viz clothing this would, again, simply echo the Highway code. I'm sure that sheriff Small is almost duty-bound to quote relevant sections of that document in a circumstance like this?

posted by dlp [51 posts]
20th May 2010 - 13:50

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Aha - pdrury seems to have cleared up my confusion....awaiting update

posted by dlp [51 posts]
20th May 2010 - 13:51

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It may be a sensible suggestion by the sheriff, but it does appear to put some responsibility on the cyclist.

Is he also going to suggest that all cars and motorcycles should be painted only in bright colours?

Should every pedestrian wear a Sam Browne belt for when they cross the road?

What about a motorcyclist wearing a helmet with reflectance <20%?

It's the duty of the driver to look out for everyone, whether clad in hi-viz or not. It may be in the interest of vulnerable road users to make efforts to make themselves more conspicuous.

I hope Mrs MacIntyre gets some degree of satisfaction from the outcome of this inquiry and, compensation fight notwithstanding, can get on with her life.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1919 posts]
20th May 2010 - 14:08

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It doesn't mention high visibility clothing in our quotes, but other court reports do that the sherrif mentioned it, here's one from stv - with a rather misleading headline and another from BBC Scotland. I can find no reports of the proceedings in which the sherrif says that a helmet would have saved Jason quite the reverse.

http://news.stv.tv/scotland/highlands-islands/178472-cycling-champs-deat...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/highlands_and_islands/8692359.stm

The main point here is not that Jason MacIntyre's choice of headwear and clothing played any part in the tragedy that befell him, the sheriff decided that that was purely down to a moment's carelessness by someone in charge of a machine that he should have been well aware had the potential to be lethally dangerous.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
20th May 2010 - 14:18

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I am a freelance journalist, who has written a report today for Scotland's daily newspapers. Here's the last few paragraphs of the piece, taken directly from the Sheriff's report:
In his judgement, Sheriff Small recommends that all cyclists wear some form of high visibility clothing to ensure they are seen by other road users.
He would also like to see a feasibility study conducted into a traffic island near the scene of the accident, which would slow down traffic.
He said:” It must also be borne in mind that Jason Macintyre was wearing a black woollen hat .
“In my opinion ……the death might have been avoided had he been wearing high visibility clothing.
“I have made an appropriate determination and recommendation under Section 6(1)(c) to that effect.”
He said Mr MacIntyre’s head injuries were so severe that wearing a helmet would have made no difference to the outcome.
However, he concluded his report by suggesting that “whenever possible” all cyclists should wear helmet on public roads.

posted by pdrury [2 posts]
20th May 2010 - 14:48

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i think he was wearing a top like this:
http://www.bikesyoulike.co.uk/images/prod_5778.jpg
not hi-viz but certainly visible

posted by manuka [36 posts]
20th May 2010 - 15:45

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Thanks for setting the record straight on that. So from a cycling point of view a more contentious judgemen than the reports we based ours story on would suggest.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
20th May 2010 - 15:50

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Selective attention blindness needs to be more widely publicised. This is ridiculous. People keep blaming cyclists in clear instances of dangerous driving.

The judge may have the opinion that Jason's death might have been avoided if he'd been dressed differently, but it *definitely* would have been avoided if he hadn't been hit by a guy driving a van.

--
http://ravenfamily.org/sam
"Give me health! And a pony!"

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posted by ravenbait [20 posts]
20th May 2010 - 18:27

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