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Lorry was travelling at 55mph on 40mph road but jury returns 'not guilty' verdict...

A lorry driver has been cleared of causing the death of a cyclist by careless driving, despite admitting that he was travelling at a speed that was around a third above the 40mph speed limit on the road where the fatal incident took place.

Olin Poulson from Pencader, Carmarthenshire, aged 20 and a student at Cardiff University, had been cycling with his mother on the A40 close to Carmarthen when he was killed on 3 September 2010, reports the BBC.

A jury at Swansea Crown Court heard that the pair were preparing to stop at the High Noon Service Station at White Mill, where they were due to meet Olin’s brother, when he was struck by the overtaking lorry as he prepared to turn right.

Tacograph analysis revealed that lorry driver Christopher Shapland had been traveling at 55mph on the road, which carries a 40mph limit, and as he braked to try and avoid a collision, his speed dropped to 52mph at the moment of impact.

He admitted driving above the speed limit, but denied that it was a contributory factor in the cyclist’s death. He also acknowledged that he had been using a hands-free mobile phone shortly before the fatal incident, but maintained that he had ceased talking to focus on overtaking.

Shapland, from Brecon, reportedly in tears as he gave evidence, told the court that Olin had signalled to turn right but failed to look behind him as he began to execute the manouevre.

He described how he could hear Olin’s mother Mary screaming once he had managed to stop his lorry, which ended up on the kerb on the opposite side of the road as he sought to avoid hitting the cyclist, who ended up underneath the lorry.

Shapland insisted, however, that his driving had not contributed to Olin’s death.

Judge Keith Thomas expressed the court's sympathy to the Poulson family.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

50 comments

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cat1commuter [1418 posts] 4 years ago
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How can his speed have possibly not been a factor? More speed, more energy, more damage.

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dave atkinson [6144 posts] 4 years ago
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...greater stopping distance, less time to react.

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scrapper [71 posts] 4 years ago
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This is ridiculous

So the facts are that the driver was speeding (in a lorry of all vehicles?), he was performing an overtaking manouvere (which DEMANDS extra care and attention) and he was engaged in a mobile phone conversation !!

and despite this, and the death of someone (who appears from this article)completely innocent he is getting off completely free?

so what the hell does actually constitute dangerous driving in the eyes of those supposedly empowered to serve justice?

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bauchlebastart [91 posts] 4 years ago
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This is a tragic case, however even had the lorry been travelling at the speed limit I think the outcome would have been the same.

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Simon_MacMichael [2443 posts] 4 years ago
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Assuming he maintained 55mph for the mile prior to the collision, if he'd been within the speed limit instead, he'd have been at least a quarter of a mile behind the cyclists.

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meves [8 posts] 4 years ago
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3mph drop in speed, he can hardly have reacted at all by the time he hit him. Speed must've been a factor, especially as if he'd been at or slightly below the speed limit the chance of survival would've increased dramatically.

If a pedestrian is hit at:
• 20mph there is about a 1 in 40 (2.5 %) chance of being killed or 97% chance of survival
• 30mph there is about a 1 in 5 (20%) chance of being killed or 80% chance of survival
• at 35mph there is a 50/50 chance of being killed
• at 40mph there is about a 9 in 10 (90%) chance of being killed or 10% chance of survival
(Source Ashton and Mackay 1979)

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londonplayer [620 posts] 4 years ago
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Until the son or daughter of a Cabinet Minister or other important bigwig is killed whilst riding their bike, the law will never reflect the reality of this crime.

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neil.almond@goo... [12 posts] 4 years ago
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I'm confused. The cyclist was ahead of the lorry and signaled his intended manoeuver. Surely he has right of way whether he looked behind him or not. He signaled his intended manoeuver but the driver chose to make a dangerous overtaking move. Had he looked and seen a vehicle behind him was he expected to stop and wait for it to pass? If that's the case then no one on a bike will ever get anywhere.

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kace19 [23 posts] 4 years ago
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Well, it's basically been said already, but:

You were breaking speed limits - not just a bit, but *way* above the limit.
You killed an innocent person who was using the road in an entirely legitimate way.
If that's not causing death by careless driving, then what the F&&& is?!
Outrageous, just literally outrageous.

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jarderich [92 posts] 4 years ago
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Anyone know who was council for the prosecution in this case? Clearly he / she was no feckin good. Can't make this case stick? I mean, come on!

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Angelfishsolo [132 posts] 4 years ago
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What exactly does a driver have to do to actually be convicted of killing a cyclist??? This is just insane. I hope that the lorry driver never sleeps again because of the nightmares he will face.

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Gkam84 [9068 posts] 4 years ago
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How can the speed to be the factor here, you HAVE to go quicker to overtake, its simple maths, If he had not attempted the overtake and stuck to the 40 limit (which the vehicle he over took most likely was) then he would not have been in that situation, I'm getting fed up of hearing about these cases and think that the jury is picked solely on if they are lorry drivers and don't cycle  14 14

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yocto [20 posts] 4 years ago
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Another very disturbing story. Make’s me furious that people can get away with stuff like this. Thoughts are with the victim’s family  2

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Simon E [2541 posts] 4 years ago
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Quote:

Shapland insisted, however, that his driving had not contributed to Olin’s death.

Why? He can't blame anything or anyone else.

He may or may not have been using a mobile phone but the combination of excessive speed and not paying attention to the road in front of his speeding vehicle are likely to be the causes.

If he had killed a copper he would go to prison, but a 20 year old's life is worth very little to those who sit on high. If this killer is genuinely sorry then he ought to be going round schools (and perhaps HGV driver training centres) with a big photo of the young man whose life he took and talking openly about the crime he committed.

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cavasta [216 posts] 4 years ago
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I'm really struggling to even begin to get my head around the judge's line of reasoning. I'm truly at a loss to figure this one out. F***ing unbelievable.  14

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gazzaputt [205 posts] 4 years ago
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Hmm.

Although yes the driver was speeding if the cyclist has pulled in front of him what else was the driver to do?

Even at 40mph the guy would have been killed.

Needs points for speeding but I think I'd have found him not guilty also.

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antonio [1103 posts] 4 years ago
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This judgement should be appealed!!

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OldRidgeback [2554 posts] 4 years ago
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The judgement in this case is highly questionable, there's no question over that.

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thereverent [389 posts] 4 years ago
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Truly unbelievable.  14

Had the driver been keeping to the speed limit he won't have been as close to the cyclists and he would have had more time to react and brake.
How the court can agree that his speed was not a big factor I don't know.

I have no confidence in the criminal justice system to deal with dangerous drivers.

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dr2chase [16 posts] 4 years ago
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You don't know any of that for sure. At 40mph (instead of 55) the driver has more time to react, more time to reduce speed, and can thus reduce speed more. The cyclist has more time to hear him coming, too, and maybe not turn after all.

We can't prove that he was distracted by his conversation, but people ARE distracted by phone conversations while driving; it should just be banned, hands-free or not. If you want to chat on a phone while you travel, ride a bike, where to a first approximation you will only endanger yourself (and if you don't feel safe doing it on a bike, why should it be allowed while you drive?)

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fiftyacorn [89 posts] 4 years ago
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Its depressing that not only does this driver not take responsibility for his actions, but that the court lets him away with it.

I hope Mr Shapland suffers as he has blood on his hands, and he deserves to

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WolfieSmith [1244 posts] 4 years ago
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Terrible decision. I agree with all the comments on speed and reaction time. Unfortunately the unspoken assumption - with motorists and the law - is that motorists have priority - whether you're cycling, walking or riding a horse on a public road. Until those users all group together and demand new speed limits and enforcement this sort of incident and court decision will continue.

A roads, B roads, urban roads - all of them currently have limits right at the edge of safety versus travel efficiency. It's a mind set that the government will not change unless we force them to. The UK Speed Spring could be upon us! By all means consider 80mph on motorways (with new public information films to remind people what indicators are for and why tailgating at 80mph isn't acceptable ) but all 60mph zones could be reduced to 50mph and all 30mph reduced to 20mph. Even a year's trial in certain cities would be a start.

Makes sense to me. Here in Liverpool 20 mph is on the cards. I'm fascinated to see the arguments against.

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bikedoc2 [4 posts] 4 years ago
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Yes he was speeding, yes he was on the phone............ but surely it was just his word that the cyclist pulled out suddenly in front of him.
And if he was intending to pass with a big gap I feel it wouldnt have occurred.
We need to take the view that any more vulnerable road user has greater protection in the eyes of the law than the less vulnerable user in any given situation on the road.
Meves points up the salient information, when you are behind the wheel of several tons of metal you should be responsible for any injury or death.
Kevin.

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Neonkat [6 posts] 4 years ago
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We need "Strict Liability" in this country. Nothing else will have such a big influence as that simple change to the law.

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6654henry [56 posts] 4 years ago
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lorry brakes are powerful enough to haul 40ish tonnes to a stop in a short distance so for a speed of 55 to be reduced to 52 at pointof impact he clearly was not paying attention. he was speeding, more speed less reaction time. Condolences to the family of the man killed.

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Large_Pista [52 posts] 4 years ago
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These kind of judgements never make sense – are we getting the whole story? Oh yeah – the judge speeds, hates cyclists and talks on the phone all the time while he's driving....

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EK Spinner [54 posts] 4 years ago
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As I understand the account from above, the lorry pulled out to over take the cyclist, the cyclist pulled out to turn right and they collided.

Surely overtaking another moving vehicle on the approach to a junction is the dangerous manouvere here, and the speed factor then exagerated the consequences.

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zanf [759 posts] 4 years ago
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This is an absolute pisstake. Hardly surprising really.

It's been said before and its no less true: if you want to kill someone in this country and get away with it then do it in a vehicle.

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Tongietr8 [9 posts] 4 years ago
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I can't believe this - the lorry driver is the guy that needs the license, the insurance, the excise tax and the responsibility here. He is the guy that is speeding and has chosen to do this. The cyclist did not speed - indicated correctly and as such obeyed the rules of the road and was the vehicle ahead.
If a car driver drives into the back of someone who is at blame? The car driver not allowing space for braking. If the car driver also killed the driver ahead there would be no question - WHY is it different for cyclists???

The lorry driver is clearly at blame "He should be getting 5 years minimum" - Direct quote from a serving Police Officer.

The law - or in this case the judge is an ass! My sympathy and condolence goes out to Olin's family. I don't know how they can live with that judgement.  14

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Depth Charge [21 posts] 4 years ago
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Disgusting verdict. How on earth can speed not be a major contributing factor here, that and the use of a mobile phone, it beggers belief.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-15438299
it will be interesting to see the outcome of the above case.
Both these incidents demand a custodial sentence AND a lengthy ban.

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