Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Minibus driver cleared over Southampton cyclist death

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.”


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.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

Add new comment


Avatar | 10 years ago

Was anyone here in court to hear days of evidence and cross-examination? Was anyone here in the jury room as they deliberated for two days? Please don't be so quick to judge based on a summary of the case on the internet

djcritchley | 10 years ago

Ah, low sun; that old chestnut.

pepita1 | 10 years ago

I'm very sorry for the Irving family's loss.

Leodis | 10 years ago

Very sad but expected, best case scenario the driver got 3 month ban, 25 com hours and £18 victim charge as usual.

My sympathy to the family.

baggies2354 | 10 years ago

Shouldn't all professional drivers have a pair of good quality sunglasses (preferably polarised) as a tool of their trade?
Sick of hearing the sun was in my eyes.

Guyz2010 | 10 years ago

Amazing. Goes totally against the Highway Code.
I do believe the driver was genuine in what he said and regretted his lack of concern but it's not an excuse.
Come on RoadCC you're in the position to invoke a campaign for 'cyclist for justice'.

paulfg42 | 10 years ago


Flying Scot | 10 years ago

Surely an appeal from the prosecutors?

If he didn't slow down to take more care in the conditions, it's still has fault, mitigating circumstances, surely, but guilty nonetheless.

He handed himself in, again, sentence......not to verdict.

One thing here, 'hand off the throttle' was the chap disabled ?

GoingRoundInCycles replied to Flying Scot | 10 years ago
Flying Scot wrote:

Surely an appeal from the prosecutors?

Surely not. An appeal against the decision of a jury?  13

Exactly how many times do you think someone should be tried for the same offence with no compelling new evidence (DNA, fingerprints etc) to consider? What, just keep going 'til you get the 'right' verdict?


Matt eaton | 10 years ago

“I was driving like I normally drive"

I suspect that this was the cause of the problem. Too many motorists just don't expect to see bikes on the road and therefore aren't looking for them. I think that the road in question is a dual-carridgeway which tends to bring out a certain 'motorway mentality' in a lot of drivers.

As for the trial I would like to know more about the composition of the jury. How many cyclists (who use the roads, not off-road only sports cyclists) were on the jury? How many of these were non-drivers? Without a good mix of people in the jury the concept of a fair trial is undermined and a bias towards drivers is likely to exist.

levermonkey | 10 years ago

If the scooter rider was concentrating on the tail-lights ahead of him then probably Mr Petterson was doing the same, i.e. he was looking out for threats to himself rather than looking out for people he might be a threat to.

How can the Police expert say that Mr Irving should have been seen and then say that he was invisible. A adult male is NOT invisible.

My deepest sympathies go out to Mr Irving's family and to the car driver who hit him. Mr Petterson however should count himself very lucky indeed!

I would urge Mr Irving's family to consider a Civil Action.

moonbucket | 10 years ago

I think the fact the chap called his Father to investigate the accident betrays the fact he knew he had not hit a "bus sign".

There should be a mandatory penalty enforced immediately someone leaves any collision site without being absolutely sure they have checked for any injured parties.

As for the glare issue - I'm sure we've all had momentary loss of vision due to winter sun - indeed last week I was driving up a brief section of hill and my sight was completely obliterated by the low sun - my only option was to continue to slow as I tried to stay safely on my side of the road following my memory of my last view of it - made trickier by the road bending.

If I had hit someone due to that momentary lack of vision would that have been a tragic accident or would I be culpable - I honestly do not know, I would certainly have felt responsible.

On a longer, straighter road I would hope that my attention would have already alerted me to anything ahead before my vision was reduced. If one could not see for the whole stretch of road they are basically driving blind and surely guilty of careless driving?

FridgeARCC | 10 years ago

Yet more evidence of the deeply institutional anti-cyclist attitudes in the UK. Commiserations to the family who are, let's not forget, most affected by this.

How many time does it have to be said? Careful drivers, who know they'll go to jail for manslaughter should they 'accidentally' kill you, would actually make cyclists safe on roads. This kind of ruling simply reinforces the 'SMIDSY' danger all non-motorised road users face. Disgraceful.

FluffyKittenofT... | 10 years ago

If you can't see, stop driving. This verdict is a disgrace.

IanW1968 | 10 years ago

Murdering ****

Jimmy Ray Will | 10 years ago

I lived around Southampton a while back, and I will say that there is a different approach to driving there. I'm sure it is not unique, but I was certainly more aware of it when driving in the area.

This approach manifests itself in driving at the same speed no matter the condition... a case of put your head down and hope. Now this seems to work as everyone does the same, and it only goes wrong if someone chucks a cyclist in there.

The only parameter of safety being if you can see the car infront, you can react to what they are doing. So if the car in front fails to see the cyclist but happens to miss, the car behind won't look for the cyclist as the driver has not been prompted to look for a hazard. Probably why the car behind ran over the chap as well.

Unfortunately the judicial system condones this style of driving by not convicting those who get it wrong.

Why o why does no one ask these drivers, if they are so innocent of carelessness, is it that no one else has run over the cyclist/pedestrian in question? Why was it them? Why were they so 'unlucky'?

colinth | 10 years ago

This is an absolute disgrace, the jury should be ashamed of themselves and I have to question the ability of the prosecuting barrister if a conviction couldn't be obtained.

If we are to believe that there was a sudden blinding by low sun and glare, then that does not explain how the driver hadn't seen the cyclist earlier. The cyclist was wearing hi-vis and flashing lights, he would have been visible from hundreds of yards away.

If he hadn't seen him at all, despite the efforts the cyclist had made to be seen, it implies that he couldn't see where he was driving, so why continue ? How the hell can "I couldn't see where I was going" be an acceptable defence to then hitting and killing someone ? Stop, just pull over and stop ! I've been driving for over 20 years, if I've ever been suddenly blinded by sun it hasn't erased the memory of what was ahead of me on the road.

The problem is that most people on the jury would probably have carried on driving as well, "could have been any one of us". It just feels like there are some battles we're never going to win, no matter how many people are killed going about their daily business.

racyrich | 10 years ago

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?

pgwsheffield | 10 years ago

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.

Jimmy Ray Will | 10 years ago

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.


STATO | 10 years ago

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?

29erKeith | 10 years ago

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

arfa | 10 years ago

+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.

Garrrrrr replied to arfa | 10 years ago
arfa wrote:

+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.

Agreed. The family of the cyclist have my sympathy.

This is yet another "incident" which possibly could have been avoided - regardless of the findings of the Police & Courts.

Isn't it time (actually I think it's long overdue) that we the public together with the backing of the Cycling and Road Safety organizations demanded our (shambolic) Government initiates an immediate review of and makes necessary changes to the Highway Code, Laws and Sentencing (if persons are found to be at fault) and stopped just banging on about blame?

How many more people need to be killed or injured on our roads before there is a change in the attitudes and behaviour of drivers, riders and pedestrians via novice rider/driver training and (universal) road user education in the form of TV & Internet ads etc. etc.?

- Bring back the Government information films of yesteryear. Stop cutting funding to the Police & Vosa and get them out there enforcing the Highway Regulations for all parties and let's not get distracted, our Courts can do nothing but make rulings based on existing guidance and that guidance is much too vague and long out of date.

When events like this make the press it shouldn't just about blame - it's about safety for all of us!

congokid | 10 years ago

“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...

markwatkin replied to congokid | 10 years ago

He went on to show how out of touch he is by stating....

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

You couldn't make it up !

a_to_the_j | 10 years ago

a disgrace.

twinklydave | 10 years ago

A quick glance on Google suggests it's not just cyclists who are expendable:

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

thereverent | 10 years ago

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)?

Stumps | 10 years ago

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.


Latest Comments