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Night ride cyclist convicted of causing death by careless driving

Judge says lack of sleep after all night bike ride contributing factor in fatal car crash

A company director driving home after a night ride from London to Whitstable has been convicted of causing death by careless driving when his BMW X5 crossed the centre line and collided with a car coming in the opposite direction killing its driver.

St Albans Crown Court heard how Nicolas Day had worked a full day and then taken part in a ride from Hyde Park to Whitstable on the night of June 17/18 this year. Having previously left his car in Whistable Day, 30  had then begun the drive to his home in Wheathampstead. However, as he entered a gradual bend on the on the B651 Wheathampstead Road in Sandridge near St Albans his car veered in to the oncoming lane colliding with a Nissan Micra driven by 47-year-old father of two Andrew Viner. Mr Viner died at the scene.

The court heard that conditions were good and that Day's car was traveling within the speed limit when the incident happened at 10am on June 18. Police incident investigators found evidence that Mr Viner had attempted to avoid the collision.

According to The St Albans Review, Mr Day who pleaded guilty to the charge, told police officers at the scene that he had suffered cramp in his leg moments before the crash. He denied falling asleep at the wheel saying that he was a fit and athletic man, but his defence barrister accepted that lack of sleep may have slowed his reaction times. The defence also accepted that Mr Day's driving had fallen below the standard expected of a reasonable driver.

Sentencing him to seven months in prison suspended for two years plus 200 hours unpaid work, and banning him from driving for 18 month, the judge told Day that although there was no evidence that he had fallen asleep he should have been able to deal with the onset of cramp in his leg. The judge went on to say that he was satisfied that lack of sleep had been a contributing factor in the incident which caused Mr Viner's death and told Day that he would have to live with the knowledge that his driving that morning had led to the death of a family man and devastated his family.

We haven't had confirmation of this but the date and the route would suggest that Mr Day had been taking part in this year's Hyde Park to Whistable Friday Night Ride to the Coast organised by the FNRttC blog. Night rides have long been a part of the summer cycling scene both on and off road with events such as the Dunwich Dynamo and Exmouth Exodus on the road and Mountain Mayhem and Sleepless in the Saddle off road.

Getting home from such events can be tricky especially on point to point road events, some events lay on coaches, many people take the train, arrange a lift or grab some sleep before riding back. On its questions page FNRttC steers riders towards the train or riding home again. some organisers of MTB events ask participants to nominate a driver and make sure he/she gets enough sleep.

It is a grim irony that this case reverses the usual scenario in which so many cyclists have lost their lives at the hands of over-tired drivers and it is a tragedy that is bound to give the organisers of night rides food for thought when it comes to advising riders on how to get home afterwards.

Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.

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