A man who caused the death of a cyclist by careless driving was sentenced to a community order and disqualified from driving for two years at Weymouth Magistrates Court on Friday. Derek Cheney, aged 63, struck Paul Miller from behind near Dorchester on January 8 after failing to see him.
The Dorset Echo reports that Cheney was made the subject of a six-month curfew in which he will have to stay at home between 9pm and 6am and will be required to wear a tag. He will have to take an extended re-test after his driving ban has finished before he will be considered for a new licence. He was also ordered to pay a £145 victim surcharge and court costs.
The court heard that 46-year-old Miller was cycling along the B3147, on his way home from St Andrew's Primary School in Yetminster where he was headteacher, when he was struck from behind by Cheney’s black Fiat.
The incident took place at 6.43pm and Miller was wearing high-vis clothing and had lights on his bike. Despite this, Cheney did not see Miller.
Speaking after the case, PC Craig Redmond, of Dorset Police’s Traffic Unit, said: “Paul was cycling home, wearing high visibility clothing and lights on his bicycle, but sadly Mr Cheney’s lack of awareness for other road users led to this tragic and avoidable collision. I would like to remind all motorists to be aware of other road users and give themselves plenty of time to respond to any obstacles ahead. Had Mr Cheney done this, Paul would still be alive today.”
In a statement, Miller’s wife Andrea said:
"Although it was dark, he was not concerned. He took cycling safety and visibility very seriously, as any of his school students will tell you: he often walked around the school in his high vis jacket, which even had a built in rear light which flashed, as well as always using a rear light on his bike.
"I have driven behind him in the dark on several occasions and he was so highly visible that I had no fears for his safety. The route was one he had ridden many times before without incident. The road where he was killed was straight.
"The police investigation found that there were seven seconds of full visibility of the road ahead, with no oncoming traffic, in which the driver should have seen Paul on his bike and overtaken him safely, preventing tragedy and heartbreak.
"It was Paul's 47th birthday on the following day and we planned to go out for a meal to celebrate. What happened instead was a nightmare that has continued ever since."
Mitigating, Charles Row said Cheney had "genuine remorse" and was "haunted" by the incident.
"This is something that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Nothing that I say can reflect the devastation that must be felt by Mrs Miller and her family and friends. Mr Cheney has done all he can in the circumstances to lessen the impact by simply pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity."
The court was told that Cheney suffers from bipolar disorder and the day after the incident was admitted to a mental health ward for six to eight weeks.
Duncan Dollimore from CTC's Road Justice campaign commented:
"When a driver fails to see a fully illuminated cyclist in front of them for seven seconds, and drives into them, that sounds like driving which is far below the standard of a competent and careful driver. That is the test for dangerous driving. So why was this only a careless driving charge and how are the public protected by the two year disqualification of a driver who was unable to concentrate upon the road ahead, not just momentarily, but for an extended period?"