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Lorry driver who left cyclist with "massive life-threatening injuries" jailed for 16 weeks

Sentence & five-year ban was maximum magistrates could impose

A Nottingham lorry driver who failed to stop after hitting a cyclist and causing massive life-threatening injuries has been jailed for 16 weeks and banned for five years.

The Nottingham Post reports that Wayne Salmon, 52, carried on with his deliveries after hitting Gus French, 56 on February 1.

Salmon said he had been blinded by the sun and thought his 7.5-tonne lorry had clipped a kerb or wall.

Prosecutor Jennifer Fitzgerald told High Peak Magistrates’ Court, in Buxton, that when witnesses spoke to him a short time later and told him he had collided with a cyclist, he shrugged his shoulders.

French sustained a serious brain injury, and neck and spinal fractures. The force of the impact was so severe it detached his ribs from his spine. He was airlifted to hospital and has not yet recovered.

Maximum sentence

Salmon admitted failing to stop and driving without due care and attention.

The sentence of 16 weeks imprisonment was the maximum magistrates could impose. They said this was the worst traffic offence they had ever heard in court.

Presiding JP Mr Hickman told Salmon: “You were in charge of a 7.5 tonne vehicle. By your own admission, you were blinded by the sun but did nothing to alter your driving and in addition your windscreen was dirty, further reducing visibility.

“You were aware you had collided with something but you know not what and didn’t stop but slowed momentarily and then accelerated.

“Later, witnesses told you about knocking someone down and the witnesses say you seemed disinterested and shrugged your shoulders in clear disregard for what you had done.

“You left life-changing and life-threatening injuries to Mr French.”

“Lives changed forever”

French’s wife Tracy told the court she had been warned he could be left in a persistent vegetative state if he survived.

“Gus and us, as a family, are left with a life sentence. From that day our lives changed forever,” said Mrs French.

“We can’t forgive the driver for leaving Gus at the scene.”

Saul Comish, mitigating, said: “[Salmon] said he was dazzled by the sun light coming from between the hill to the extent that he could not see clearly and was following the centre of the road.

“A car has come toward him and he has moved toward the nearside. He accepts he should have seen and should have avoided Mr French.”

Mr Comish said Salmon accepted the consequences were devastating for Mr French and his family.

“He deeply regrets that pain and suffering he has caused,” he said.

Road Justice

Many will see this latest case as another example of an overly-lenient sentence handed down to a driver whose carelessness maimed a vulnerable road user.

The CTC, through its Road Justice campaign, and British Cycling have long campaigned for tougher sentences in more serious cases and especially for longer bans for drivers who have demonstrated they are not fit to be in charge of a motor vehicle.

Justice secretary Chris Grayling recently announced a full review of all driving offences and penalties, along with tougher penalties for disqualified drivers who kill or injure other road users. He said: “I want to make our roads safer and ensure people who cause harm face tough penalties.”

CTC’s Road Justice coordinator Rhia Weston welcomed the plan to review all driving penalties and offences. She added: “CTC’s Road Justice campaign also wants to see much greater use of driving bans for those who commit driving offences without wilful risk taking and wider use of non-custodial options such as vehicle confiscation.”

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 CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com 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 TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

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

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