Sunday, 16 December 2012

How much does that lorry weigh?

This week the driver of the loaded Lynch Haulage four-axle tipper truck that collided with Times journalist Mary Bowers, leaving her in a coma a year on, was convicted of careless driving and cleared of the more serious charge of dangerous driving. He was given a fine and disqualified from driving for 8 months.

According to the Standard,
A jury decided that Beiu's driving standards were not bad enough to convict him of the most serious charge available in cases where the victim is not killed.
Beiu's barrister Rowan Matthew Jenkins told the court that Ms Bowers, who was wearing a helmet and dark clothing, had been "easy to miss, even for a careful person looking out".
Beiu said in evidence: “Maybe I didn’t look properly enough. This is what I will regret for the rest of my life.
“I should have looked better and this would never have happened."
The court had been told that Ms Bowers placed herself alongside another cyclist in an advanced cyclists' box in front of the lorry as they waited at traffic lights in Dock Street.
Beiu was giving directions on a hands-free phone to a colleague and failed to spot Ms Bowers despite her being "in direct sight" through his windscreen for at least 10 seconds before pulling away and turning left across her path.
He even failed to realise there was a cycle lane on his near side, the court was told.
I can't help but wonder whether the decision that the jury came to was influenced by the kind of 'There but for the grace of God go I' feeling that one driver (and the odds are that there were several drivers on the jury) may feel for another.

You know, setting off from the lights, bit distracted chatting to my mate on the hands-free mobile, so many pedestrians, bollards etc. around that aren't lit up - slight chance I, a social rather than professional driver, might misjudge what's happening and bump into something or someone but hey I'm going slowly and not likely to cause much damage really. Just a bit careless.

But there are vehicles and there are VEHICLES. It's one thing imagining being knocked into and run over by a car like the one above travelling at very low speed. Now imagine being knocked into and run over by the lorry below (or rather this lorry when it's fully laden).

Crossrail ready tipper
According to the Standard,
Ms Bowers suffered a "significant brain injury" and two severely broken legs, a severed artery, a punctured lung, a broken arm and a broken pelvis.
Given the scale of damage that can so easily be delivered by a vehicle of that size and weight, I am dismayed that the jury members didn't consider that driving while a bit distracted on a populated urban street, which they might view as 'careless' by a car driver, falls into the category of extremely 'dangerous' when driving the lorry above.

I also have to say that I'm really thankful that I don't have to make a living driving trucks of that scale on streets shared with pedestrians, cyclists and all the other road users - the drivers have an incredibly challenging job with a huge amount of responsibility. 'Chapeau' to the many excellent ones.
I've taken this indicative image of a 4-axle tipper truck from the website of  Lynch Haulage, which, let me be clear, may not be the same company that provided the truck that Beiu was driving, and I don't know whether this is the type of four-axle tipper truck that he was driving. (Regardless,  I'm certainly pleased that the company website states it is currently installing  the safety measures identified in their photo)