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Judge says lack of sleep after all night bike ride contributing factor in fatal car crash

A company director driving home after a night ride from London to Whitstable has been convicted of causing death by careless driving when his BMW X5 crossed the centre line and collided with a car coming in the opposite direction killing its driver.

St Albans Crown Court heard how Nicolas Day had worked a full day and then taken part in a ride from Hyde Park to Whitstable on the night of June 17/18 this year. Having previously left his car in Whistable Day, 30  had then begun the drive to his home in Wheathampstead. However, as he entered a gradual bend on the on the B651 Wheathampstead Road in Sandridge near St Albans his car veered in to the oncoming lane colliding with a Nissan Micra driven by 47-year-old father of two Andrew Viner. Mr Viner died at the scene.

The court heard that conditions were good and that Day's car was traveling within the speed limit when the incident happened at 10am on June 18. Police incident investigators found evidence that Mr Viner had attempted to avoid the collision.

According to The St Albans Review, Mr Day who pleaded guilty to the charge, told police officers at the scene that he had suffered cramp in his leg moments before the crash. He denied falling asleep at the wheel saying that he was a fit and athletic man, but his defence barrister accepted that lack of sleep may have slowed his reaction times. The defence also accepted that Mr Day's driving had fallen below the standard expected of a reasonable driver.

Sentencing him to seven months in prison suspended for two years plus 200 hours unpaid work, and banning him from driving for 18 month, the judge told Day that although there was no evidence that he had fallen asleep he should have been able to deal with the onset of cramp in his leg. The judge went on to say that he was satisfied that lack of sleep had been a contributing factor in the incident which caused Mr Viner's death and told Day that he would have to live with the knowledge that his driving that morning had led to the death of a family man and devastated his family.

We haven't had confirmation of this but the date and the route would suggest that Mr Day had been taking part in this year's Hyde Park to Whistable Friday Night Ride to the Coast organised by the FNRttC blog. Night rides have long been a part of the summer cycling scene both on and off road with events such as the Dunwich Dynamo and Exmouth Exodus on the road and Mountain Mayhem and Sleepless in the Saddle off road.

Getting home from such events can be tricky especially on point to point road events, some events lay on coaches, many people take the train, arrange a lift or grab some sleep before riding back. On its questions page FNRttC steers riders towards the train or riding home again. some organisers of MTB events ask participants to nominate a driver and make sure he/she gets enough sleep.

It is a grim irony that this case reverses the usual scenario in which so many cyclists have lost their lives at the hands of over-tired drivers and it is a tragedy that is bound to give the organisers of night rides food for thought when it comes to advising riders on how to get home afterwards.

Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.

13 comments

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mr-andrew [300 posts] 5 years ago
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The fact that he is a cyclist has nothing to do with this. When he is in the car, he's a motorist, just like any other. Anyone knows that they will be shattered after a ride like that - and getting behind the wheel of a car, especially one as large as an X5 shows either a remarkably failure of judgement or an astounding lack of regard for other road users. If he left his car there earlier, I tend to lean toward the latter. If he wasn't a cyclist and had knocked one of us down. we'd be baying for his blood. His sentence is way to light and my sympathies go to Mr Viner's family.

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1961BikiE [386 posts] 5 years ago
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Have to agree totally with Mr Andrew.  13

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dave atkinson [6317 posts] 5 years ago
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mr-andrew wrote:

The fact that he is a cyclist has nothing to do with this.

agreed - doing anything that requires that you deprive yourself of sleep, and then attempting to drive, is a very bad idea. The fact that he was cycling isn't relevant in that regard, but it *is* relevant to us as cyclists as we're looking for rides to complete next year. night rides are on the increase. make sure you have your transport sorted so you're not relying on yourself to get home.

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OldRidgeback [2798 posts] 5 years ago
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Yep, a fool behind the wheel and he received a light sentence. The family of the victim are the ones receiving my sympathy.

The make of car the man was driving has been noted by me.

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shay cycles [398 posts] 5 years ago
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Headline should read "BMW driver convicted of....."

If I run you down riding my bike I'm a cyclist, if I run you down driving my car I'm a motorist (of course I'm more likely to kill you when I'm a motorist). Either way if I do that when unfit to do so from tiredness, whether from lack of sleep or physical exertion, then it is my fault and I deserve a penalty. The penalty should reflect what I have done, the harm caused and why I did it.

In the case here the penalty is too light to reflect those things as are most penalties imposed on motorists.

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londonplayer [621 posts] 5 years ago
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"Nicolas Day was driving a BMW X5...."

And you are describing him as a cyclist?! Hmmmm.....

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spongebob [277 posts] 5 years ago
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This article needs to be renamed/removed from this site...

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Simon E [3095 posts] 5 years ago
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londonplayer wrote:

"Nicolas Day was driving a BMW X5...."

And you are describing him as a cyclist?! Hmmmm.....

Fair point, though I'd suggest that there is still a lesson we all can learn from this man's mistake (and I don't mean having such poor taste in cars). Driving when so tired is surely as dangerous as drink-driving. Remember that you too can be a risk to others.

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Tony Farrelly [2899 posts] 5 years ago
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SammyG wrote:

This article needs to be renamed/removed from this site...

If you go out and ride all night after a day at work and kill somebody - you're a cyclist in my book because it was cycling that put you in an impaired condition. The reason this article say "Cyclist" at the top is to grab the attention of the very many people who ride all night events and behave in exactly the way that this guy did, at some point their luck may give out and when that point arrives some innocent person is likely to suffer. If cycling is a big enough part of your life to inspire you to ride all night to the coast then you don't stop being a cyclist once you get behind the wheel of a car.

Sorry if some of you find that an uncomfortable truth but the headline stays.

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bikecellar [268 posts] 5 years ago
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Your right Tony, He should have arranged for someone else to do the driving. The fact that he did not, makes him a muppet and reinforces the message that it is not a motoring/cycling thing just PEOPLE who are unsafe on the roads.

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Bez [612 posts] 5 years ago
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What Tony said. It's relevant because it serves as a warning to others doing similar events who may assume they're fine to drive home when they're not. It shows that the effects of physical exertion and/or lack of sleep can be just as harmful as drink or drugs.

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Simon E [3095 posts] 5 years ago
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Bez wrote:

What Tony said.

Hey, I said it first! Get your own lines, Tony  3

If the title began "BMW driver in lethal smash..." it wouldn't have provoked the same discussion.

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StuAff [127 posts] 5 years ago
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I'm an FNRttC regular (did thirteen of this year's rides, including the one in question). Simon the organiser takes safety extremely seriously- for every ride he does multiple recces, we have clear procedures for signalling turns etc, and having safe ways for people to get home is a key consideration for destinations and routes- on multiple occasions, where people have bailed out they've been able to get on a train home, me included. Mr Day and his friends had insisted, despite repeated advice from Simon, on leaving a car in Kent then driving back. For some reason they were in a rush and opted to leave the ride early. They made a terrible decision and a life was lost because of it. Simon gave serious thought to ending the rides, but after careful consideration we're continuing. FNRttC regulars are well aware of the dangers of sleep deprivation- I've nodded off on a train home on many occasions, and whether I've done that or ridden back I've been groggy for the rest of the day. No-one is capable of being awake for well over 24 hours, regardless of activity, and being in a fit state to drive. They could have taken the train or had a nap before driving, but didn't. People have to be responsible for their own actions.