Two motorists who stood trial on charges of causing the death of a cyclist in October last year by careless driving have been cleared by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court, where they had said during their trial that they had been blinded by the sun.
Stan Coates, aged 55 and from West Herrington in Sunderland, was sitting injured at the roadside waiting for an ambulance after being struck by a car driven by 25-year-old Michael Elton when he was struck by a second vehicle and dragged along the road.
Despite two nurses who were passing by stopping to treat him for his injuries, he died in hospital the following day as a result of multiple injuries, reports the Sunderland Echo.
Both Elton, who was convicted on the less serious charge of careless driving, and the driver of the second vehicle, Edward Peverley, aged 21, denied causing death by careless driving.
After the trial, solicitor Philip Thompson, acting for the victim’s relatives, said: “The Coates family remains understandably devastated by the events of October 26 2012.
“The ongoing criminal case has meant the family has had to wait for two years to receive any information about how Mr Coates died.
“However, the Coates family are pleased to have had the opportunity to build a picture of the events that led to Mr Coates’ death and to fully understand what happened that day.
“Furthermore, Mrs Coats was not previously aware that two nurses had been passing at the time of the incident, and she is grateful for the relative comfort they were able to give her husband in his final moments.
“The family was also grateful to discover that the incident did not occur because of anything Mr Coates did – he was a completely blameless victim.
“Although nothing can bring Mr Coates back, we have been investigating the possibility of a civil claim for compensation,” he added.
Elton, who stayed at the scene, as did Mr Peverley, is due to be sentenced today.
The fatal incident took place on a road with a 60mph speed limit and the court heard that the drivers, both in Vauxhall Corsa cars, were travelling at respective speeds of around 50mph in Elton’s case, and below 40mph for the second vehicle.
During the trial, Elton told how he was giving his details to Mr Coates when the pair were struck by Mr Peverley’s car, and both motorists spoke of the effect of the sun, reports Chronicle Live.
“I was coming up the hill and the sun was facing directly towards me,” he said. "I couldn’t see anybody in the road until the last second. I basically heard a thud and saw something.
“I immediately braked and stopped and it was only when I got out of the car that I realised I had hit a cyclist. I went over to talk to him, he was conscious and talking and leaning on his bike at the side of the road.”
He called an ambulance for the cyclist, who said he had hurt his knee and wrist.
“We were there about 10 minutes following the accident, waiting for the ambulance,” the driver continued. “I was in the middle of writing down my details for the cyclist and the next I knew I was hit off something and thrown into the bushes.
“I could immediately hear the cyclist screaming in pain," he said. "I realised we had both been hit by another vehicle.”
In a statement, Mr Peverley said he had been unable to see either Elton or Mr Coates, although he did notice the other Astra, which had its hazard lights on.
“I started to slow down because of the car and because the sun was shining over the top of the hill,” he said. “I had the sun visor down but it was still difficult to see.
“As I continued driving I heard a noise and stopped. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a man lying on the road.
“I got out of the car and noticed the other driver that had hit the man on the ground before me,” he added.
According to the AA, on average 3,900 people are injured each year and 28 killed in road traffic incidents in which motorists' vision being impaired by the sun is a factor.
Earlier this month, the organisation's president, Edmund King, said: "Many slower and more vulnerable road users - joggers, dog walkers, pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders - will be trying to take advantage of the last of the light evenings before the clocks go back. All road users need to be fully aware of the potential twilight dangers.
"Joggers, dog walkers, workers returning home on foot and other pedestrians walking with their backs to vehicles are almost twice as likely to be killed or seriously injured in road accidents."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.