Tesla driver who killed cyclist blames low sun – but prosecution points to dirty windscreen and no screenwash

Driver denies causing death by careless driving

The driver involved in the collision that killed 80-year-old Fred Heppell from County Durham has denied causing his death by careless driving, reports the Northern Echo. Aidan Tait claims he was blinded by a low sun when he hit the cyclist from behind on the A177 in 2017.

Heppell was riding on the southbound side of the A177, between Bowburn and Shincliffe, near Durham, at about 9.20am on Friday November 10 when he was hit by a blue Tesla car, driven by Tait.

The retired bank manager was taken by air ambulance to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, where he died later that day.

In a statement, his family said: “He had a long and happy retirement, combining his love of cycling with his sense of adventure and travel.

“Fred averaged 10,000 miles per year on his bike and with his wife by his side had cycled across America, Australia, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand and a host of European countries in his retirement years.

“He was a regular on the North East roads, popping out for an average 60 mile bike ride at least three times each week.”

When road.cc reported on the collision at the time, it was unclear whether the semi-autonomous vehicle was being operated in Autopilot mode, but there seems to be no suggestion that this was the case.

Tom Gent, representing Tait, said the defence case rests on the effect of low sun on visibility.

Paul Cleasby, prosecuting, accepted there was low sun, but said: “The cyclist was in the correct lane and was there to be seen.”

He suggested that a dirty windscreen may have played a part and added: “There’s evidence of a lack of fluid in the washers.”

He said the car had a warning light that would have indicated the lack of fluid.

The case is due to begin on September 9.

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