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Motorist who killed cyclist had been warned not to drive

Driver suffered from obstructive sleep apnoea which had been leaving him tired during the day

A driver who hit and killed a cyclist near Chollerford, Northumberland in August of last year had been told by a sleep specialist that he shouldn’t drive the day before the crash. Neil Urwin had also been handed a DVLA leaflet entitled ‘Tiredness Can Kill Advice for Drivers’ during his appointment at the sleep clinic at Hexham general hospital.

The Guardian reports that the 56-year-old forklift truck driver from East Acres, Barrasford, had sought advice from his GP in the months before the collision after suffering from obstructive sleep apnoea, which caused his night-time breathing to be interrupted, and him to wake up. This led to him feeling tired during the day and he eventually went to see a specialist.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how on August 8 she had told him that he should not drive. He was also scheduled for a sleep study and given some equipment to wear at night to record his sleep patterns. He suffered restless sleep that night and the sleep monitor caused him to wake up twice.

Despite the advice, Urwin went out in his new Ford Fiesta the following day to go fishing in Rothbury. On his return journey that afternoon, he hit Andrew Charlton while driving at 50-55mph on a straight section of the A6079.

Hit from behind, Charlton went up onto the bonnet and over the top of the car. Despite wearing a helmet, he suffered catastrophic brain injuries and later died at Royal Victoria infirmary in Newcastle.

The court heard that the section of road gave Urwin a 327-metre unrestricted view before the point of impact. There were no skid marks on the road and no signs of emergency braking before the crash.

Urwin told the police he saw Charlton two to three car lengths ahead of him and demonstrated that he gave the cyclist 54cm of space as he went past him in the car.

Richard Bennett, prosecuting, said that Urwin could not explain why he had not spotted Charlton before that moment.

“Either Mr Urwin was nodding off at the wheel before he saw Mr Charlton at the last minute or he was simply so tired he was not able to concentrate properly as he drove along the road. In short, the prosecution says the defendant’s driving that day fell far below what was expected of a competent and careful driver and it was obvious that it did so.”

Urwin has admitted causing death by careless driving but denies the more serious charge of causing death by dangerous driving.

The case continues.

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