Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

news

Driver found guilty of causing death by careless driving after killing cyclist was using Snapchat moments before fatal incident

There was a gap of 30 seconds between the driver using Snapchat and calling 999

A driver who strayed into the opposite carriageway while using Snapchat moments before colliding with a cyclist who died in hospital eight days later has been found guilty of causing death by careless driving. 

Silan Kaya was found guilty of causing death by careless driving at St. Albans Crown Court after being found not guilty of causing death by dangerous driving, reports the Welwyn Hatfield Times.

The incident happened just before Christmas day in 2019 when Kaya hit Brian Hart-Leverton on Dancers Hill Road, Bentley Heath near the Hertfordshire town of Potters Bar in her white BMW 220D.

The prosecution could not say that Kaya was using the social media app at the moment of the collision, but they found that there was a 30 second gap between her using the app and the moment the 25-year-old called 999.

Unfortunately, Mr Hart-Leverton died eight days later on December 29 2019 in The Royal London Hospital.

Kaya was reported to have said in the witness box: “The cyclist was pretty much approaching me in my lane. After that moment something happened. All I remember was my car coming into the ditch and my glass breaking.

“As soon as my car came to a stop. I immediately ran out of my car to see what was happening on the road. I saw the cyclist. I sought medical help as soon as I could and dialed 999.”

Kaya pleaded not guilty for both death caused by dangerous driving as well as death caused by careless driving but the judge deemed that she was “distracted by text messages” despite her protest of “No, it was not.”

Kaya will be sentenced on October 14 2022 by Judge Lana Wood.

Tim is a freelance writer who has worked for publications such as Cycling Weekly, VeloNews, Rouleur and Eurosport during his career so far. He has also been the social media manager for UCI Continental Team, Global 6 Cycling, where he travelled Europe covering races. A graduate in journalism from Sheffield Hallam University, Tim is well trained in writing a whole manner of articles but has focussed almost entirely on the world of cycling. He loves to go for rides on his local roads in North Yorkshire as well as around the country.

Add new comment

44 comments

Avatar
BalladOfStruth replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
3 likes

Wow, that's shocking.

I'd also be interested to see how modern in-car entertainment interface design has affetcted driver awareness. For example, when the Tesla Model 3 was announced, I recall saying that I would be surpirised that such a car was allowed on UK roads seeing as the (entirely touch-screen based) centre-console required drivers to look away from the road to perform any task. I remember contrasting this with the BMW I drove at the time where all the buttons/dials on the centre-console had different sizes/textures, so that after a few days of familiarisation you could do anything from change the volume, to adjust the climate control, to interact with the sat-nav without taking your eyes off the road. To my surprise, not only was the model 3 interface deemed safe, but pretty much every car released since has tried to copy it. I don't see how touch-based interfaces with no haptic/tactile feedback can be doing anything other than significantly reducing driver awareness.

Avatar
Hirsute replied to BalladOfStruth | 1 year ago
3 likes

That and the Brake link I posted show that the current offences are out of step with the modern driving experience and fail to reflect the amount of cognitive overload and consequent issues of various types of technology.

I think eburtthebike may have mentioned some review of road traffic offences.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to BalladOfStruth | 1 year ago
4 likes
BalladOfStruth wrote:

I don't see how touch-based interfaces with no haptic/tactile feedback can be doing anything other than significantly reducing driver awareness.

Car manufacturers love them as they're cheap and can be trivially redesigned. They just need to include a disclaimer about not using them whilst driving and then they can blame the driver for any issues that arise.

Avatar
SimoninSpalding replied to BalladOfStruth | 1 year ago
1 like

There was some research done in Sweden using an old Volvo as the "control" vehicle comparing how long it takes to do stuff in cars with touchscreens. This is  not surprising.

I find it interesting that the Apple Car Play always comes out more distracting than the equivalent Android. I have always found Apple products less than intuitive, but I know others wouldn't use anything else. I was wondering if it was corrected for whether the driver was a habitual Android/ Apple user or have I been right all along?

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will | 1 year ago
4 likes

I can imagine here, that the lack of definitive proof of phone use at time of impact will have been clung to by members of the jury, uncomfortable with the reality of potentially committing a 'nice young lady' to 8 years in prison.

'Here by the grace of god' is very much a factor for jurors in these cases, and this is a prime example where reasonable judgement has been lost due to personal bias.

The lack of guilty plea won't have helped as jurors will know that guilty verdicts will result in higher sentences.

Personally, I think an admission of earlier phone use, the mere 30 seconds gap between proven phone use and 999 dial, and the lack of memory of the impact (other than noting the cyclist was deviating from their line, natch), is proof beyond reasonable doubt, but hey ho, I'm not on the jury. 

Urgent rethink needed for how these cases are dealt with.

Avatar
EK Spinner replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 1 year ago
4 likes

“As soon as my car came to a stop. I immediately ran out of my car to see what was happening on the road. I saw the cyclist. I sought medical help as soon as I could and dialed 999.”

"there was a 30 second gap between her using the app and the moment the 25-year-old called 999"

I would interperet the 2 statements above as definite proof, unless you suggest the first statement takes more than 30 secs and she finished her texting/snap chat before calling 999

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will replied to EK Spinner | 1 year ago
4 likes

Not sure I fully understand your sentence... 

To clarify my position... looking at those thirty seconds... 

The accident itself will have taken time. From impact, to going into the ditch, to coming to a stop. Being generous, lets say ~5 seconds. Then there will be a period of pause... where you go, 'what the fudge?' Again lets say that was 3-5 seconds. Getting out of the car would be a further 5 seconds, with a similar amount of time spent assessing the situation, so a further 5-10 secs.... You also need to factor in time to take the phone out of your pocket, unlock and dial... thats got to be 5 seconds. Best case scenario, 23 seconds minimum. 

So we've a maximum possibility of 7 seconds of wiggle room. But wait, you have to factor in the other side... from finishing on Snapchat, the phone will need to have been closed and placed down and the hand returned to the steering wheel... thats another couple of seconds of distraction at least.

So to me, by being incredibly generous, there is a potential 5 sec window between last phone use whilst driving and the impact. But wait, some of that 5 seconds would have included pre-impact time... where the two parties were deviating on to a collision course.

And, I'm ignoring the fact that as the phone had been in use, it would not have been in the drivers pocket, so post crash, this would need to have been located, which takes time... well unless the phone was already in the hand.

I struggle to understand how any reasonable person would not accept the phone was in use at the time of the impact. 

Avatar
EK Spinner replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 1 year ago
2 likes

I think we ar in agreement here, she was definetly using her phone, the 30 second window proves it (and your breakdown is good too).

Avatar
steaders1 | 1 year ago
3 likes

There is probably more than a generation that have grown up using phones in cars before the laws were changed and therefore stopping their use is an uphill task as they don't see it as a problem. However the courts and legal systems should be able to sentence offenders much more severely, like a ban from driving for ever and then other future offenders just might think again. I can't see this ever happening though and therefore this will happen again and again and again

Avatar
Hirsute replied to steaders1 | 1 year ago
4 likes

You can substitute drink driving there.

A concerned effort to make phone use as unacceptable as drink driving is now is needed.

Which also needs someone like essex police to do a bit more than send a letter when given video evidence. So much for vision zero.

Avatar
ktache replied to steaders1 | 1 year ago
2 likes

Mobile phone use only really started early 90s, became common in the mid 90s.

Phone use while driving was mad illegal in lateish 2003.

A decade, maybe a tad more.

It's been against the law for a generation.

Avatar
SimoninSpalding replied to steaders1 | 1 year ago
2 likes

I think that the problem is actually the opposite. It is not the fact that in the 90s some cars had phones in, and in 2001 my employer installed a hands free kit in my car so that I was "always available". It is the fact that now cars have apps, cars encourage you to use your phone for sat nav, music etc, and people have come to define themselves by their online activity so can't bear to not have their phone in reach. 

Add to this the feeble sentencing and the almost total lack of road police presence and people just carry on texting, online dating etc knowing they will get away with it.

And then someone dies.

Avatar
PRSboy | 1 year ago
1 like

I have insisted my 19 y/o daughter keep her phone in her bag while driving whenever possible.  I am nervous about her using the phone for navigation, as the temptation to respond to messages that pop up is there.  iPhones at least have a 'driving mode' which supresses messages until out of the car, I imagine Android offers a similar facility.

Avatar
Hirsute | 1 year ago
11 likes

https://www.brake.org.uk/get-involved/take-action/mybrake/knowledge-cent...

The primary impairment that drivers face from using a phone behind the wheel, is the mental distraction from the driving task. Research has shown that after using your phone, it can take half a minute to regain full
attention, during which time your driving is impaired

Avatar
brooksby replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
4 likes
hirsute wrote:

https://www.brake.org.uk/get-involved/take-action/mybrake/knowledge-cent... The primary impairment that drivers face from using a phone behind the wheel, is the mental distraction from the driving task. Research has shown that after using your phone, it can take half a minute to regain full attention, during which time your driving is impaired

Which doesn't bode well for people watching films etc while their Tesla is in 'not quite self-driving' mode...  I wonder how long that takes to get their brains back in gear?

Avatar
fenix | 1 year ago
12 likes

The newspaper story makes it clear that her car strayed into the other side of the road.

I really don't know what else you'd need to do to be more dangerous.

Wrong side of the road. Oblivious to oncoming traffic.

I hope she never drives again.

Avatar
iandusud | 1 year ago
3 likes

If your driving is of a standard that it kills someone how can it not considered to be dangerous? Do you have to kill several people? Is one not enough?

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to iandusud | 1 year ago
7 likes

"Tragic accident", "unforeseen consequences".  As you know this goes something like: this happens all the time.  We (magistrates, judge, jury) have seen / know people who did / have done similar ourselves - albeit at a minor level - which didn't lead to this result. Driving is dangerous but it's normal too.  So we want to see some kind of intent*, the driver has to be a major wrong'un or really, utterly reckless - like "I set my house on fire because I just don't care" wild.

* Even though careless and dangerous were created - if I recall - because juries weren't convicting for murder / manslaughter ie. I think the idea was to "drain the drama" and lessen the "intent" part.  Not a lawyer though...

Avatar
OldRidgeback replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
5 likes

It wasn't an accident. It was a fatal crash caused by a total lack of care on the part of the driver.

Avatar
qwerty360 | 1 year ago
7 likes

And another case that makes me think we really should make dangerous vs careless a matter of sentencing guidelines not different offences.

 

Instead having (at least) two offences classes where the difference is mens rea/intentional acts;

Hit a rider as a nurse when driving while too tired after long shift - negligent but not intentional. Also low level speeding, failing to look properly, etc. A lot of minor offences that can be fixed with training (and probably become a lot less likely after the incident reminds people why they were trained to do X/Y/Z - because once in a blue moon it prevents a potentially serious incident).

Hit a rider while using phone - specific example of intentional negligence (recklessness) (but not mens rea) (also knowingly driving with uncorrected vision, high level speeding (going 40 in a 30 can be error in reading signs; Doing 100 in a 30 is clearly intentional...). You made an active decision to break the law but didn't intend to hurt someone.

Hit a rider by driving at them after making death threats etc - mens rea - Should be automatic driving ban + mandatory requirement to get psychologist to sign off on you ever driving again (and black box, vehicle restrictions (weight, speed, acceleration), etc).

 

The first can be improved with training (and the incident will likely help because people are likely to take fewer risks); For the last training is completely irrelevent.

Yet we basically treat all the same with the difference in penalties being strongly based on outcome

Avatar
hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
19 likes

I'd consider that whether or not she was on SnapChat is just an aggravating factor - driving on the opposite side of the carriageway and hitting someone/something is clearly far below the standard of a careful and competent driver. It beggars belief that she was found not guilty of dangerous driving and I wonder what kind of instructions were given to the jury.

Avatar
muhasib | 1 year ago
18 likes

"Under cross-examination by prosecutor Nigel Ogborne, she admitted a text dispute with her brother over money was taking place as she was driving."

Despite this her driving was careless rather than dangerous- another example of how the legal system fails the victim.

Avatar
Secret_squirrel replied to muhasib | 1 year ago
1 like

Not excusing it but I wonder if there was a lack of credible witnesses to the event.  If say the accident investigation was all they had to go on?

Just trying out permutations in my head that dont lead someone rational to dangerous driving.   Mind boggling.

Avatar
EddyBerckx | 1 year ago
14 likes

A total joke. Careless driving my arse...victim blaming too despite being shown to have broken the law by using her phone whilst driving...and her lack of memory of the actual incident...is she / the jury having a laugh? 

Avatar
andystow replied to EddyBerckx | 1 year ago
10 likes

Yeah, I doubt anyone would be on the phone to 999 within 30 seconds of a crash that put their car in a ditch. So either she crashed, then logged on to Snapchat for a selfie before checking on her victim, or she was on Snapchat at the moment of the crash.

Avatar
wycombewheeler replied to andystow | 1 year ago
6 likes
andystow wrote:

Yeah, I doubt anyone would be on the phone to 999 within 30 seconds of a crash that put their car in a ditch. So either she crashed, then logged on to Snapchat for a selfie before checking on her victim, or she was on Snapchat at the moment of the crash.

quite she was either using the phone at point of impact or less than 5 seconds before, how long does it take to stop get out the car, check other people and then call 999? it's not less than 20s

 

Amazing that she was even collected enough to call 999 within 30s

Avatar
IanMSpencer replied to EddyBerckx | 1 year ago
14 likes

One assumes that the lack of honesty during the trial will be an aggravating element in her sentencing - stand by for dishonest pleadings by her barrister during sentencing.

Given that the judge was convinced that the defendant was using the phone and was driving on the wrong side of the road, one has to wonder just how far below the standard of a reasonably careful and competent driver you have to fall before the courts will convict for dangerous driving.

Avatar
BalladOfStruth replied to IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
18 likes
IanMSpencer wrote:

...one has to wonder just how far below the standard of a reasonably careful and competent driver you have to fall before the courts will convict for dangerous driving.

It's mad. I've mentioned before that in my opinion the defining factor should be that careless driving is negligence and dangerous driving is a conscious choice. If you’re generally distracted or not paying attention then careless driving makes sense, but if you’ve made the conscious decision to reach for your phone, drive above the speed limit/fit speed for the conditions, or drive whilst intoxicated/impaired/otherwise medically unfit, that should be automatic dangerous driving.  

Avatar
Wingguy replied to BalladOfStruth | 1 year ago
13 likes

Staggering isn't it. Being so distracted she didn't realise she was on the wrong side of the road with another vehicle approaching head on isn't dangerous driving?

Pages

Latest Comments