Thursday, 7 February 2013

Driving resulting in death

The excellent Crimeline has drawn attention to two recent decisions of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) concerning causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving.   Both were appeals against sentence.  Both are, in their ways, tragic cases.

The first case demonstrates that poor health can be the factor which makes the driving dangerous and also shows that old age is not, in itself, a factor which prevents the imposition of a custodial sentence.

Death by dangerous drivingR v Cole – The appellant was a man of age 86 who suffered poor health and, in particular, had suffered poor eyesight since 2007.  In the Crown Court,
he pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving (Road Traffic Act 1988 s.1) and a separate count of making a false statement to obtain a licence.  The appellant , who was NOT driving fast, ran down a man who was walking across the street.  The injured man died about a month later.   The appellant had not met the required eyesight standard for driving since 2007. In 2009 he had been strongly advised not to drive any more. Notwithstanding this, he had submitted applications to the DVLA in 2007 and again in April 2010 to renew his driving licence.  On each occasion he had signed the required declaration (applicable to those aged 70 and over) that he did not suffer from a condition which would affect his fitness to drive and that he could read a number plate at the specified distance. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and disqualified from driving for 6 years (AND until an extended re-test was passed).

The mere fact of his chronological age did not, in the court’s judgment, militate against the imposition of an immediate custodial sentence of the length that he received. Having regard, however, to the medical evidence before the court and in particular recent reports from the prison, the court considered that it was wrong in principle that the offender should remain in custody any longer. The sentence was quashed and substituted by a sentence of 51 weeks suspended for 2 years, with a 12-month supervision order. LINK .  [The disqualification and re-test requirement remains in place].

The second case concerns a man who suffered a hypoglycemic episode when driving.

Death by careless drivingR v Rigby – The appellant (R) - a man of exemplary character - pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving (Road Traffic Act 1988 s2B).  R had Type 1 diabetes.  His wife had received surgery for breast cancer and this placed him under considerable stress which, according to expert medical opinion, contributed to a very high glucose level in his blood on the day.  He had been insulin dependent for 33 years but, due to the abnormally high sugar level, he took extra insulin (above his usual intake) some time before driving with the result that a hypoglycemic episode occurred when he was driving.

The court was not persuaded that the usual sentencing guidelines were applicable to this type of case since the culpability lies in the failure to take precautions before driving, rather than in the driving itself which in this case could be termed unconscious. Thus the judge was not bound by the guidelines.  Held: 16 months reduced to 4 (immediate release) due to the exceptional nature of the case. LINK  [The 10 year disqualification remains in place].

The court made a point of stating (my emphasis):  'We underline that people with this condition have a duty to take care and to comply with the advice given by the DVLA.' 

I have done a considerable amount of internet searching this afternoon.  Regrettably, I have not been able to find any link to the advice referred to by the court.  If any reader has a link and lets me know I will be more than happy to add it to this post.  (Please send link by via a Comment to the post).  The DVLA website refers the reader to which has THIS information which appears to be concerned with the completion of Form DIAB1.


Much information regarding Diabetes is available at NHSDiabetes UK and at  

InDependent Diabetes Trust - Hypoglycemia and driving - Diabetes and Driving



  1. I am reliably informed that an opthalmologist, whose patient's eyesight does not meet the required standard for driving and who does not agree to stop driving, can report the matter to DVLA

  2. People do not like to be parted from their cars. The Huhne cas is a good example of this, I am aware that the passing around of points is not unusual and have several friends who are also aware that this is not unusual. Surprising considering sentences handed down for this offence.
    A relation by marriage, some time ago now, carried on driving although registered as blind. To my surprise I passed him travelling quite fast in the opposite direction on a main road near his home. Ironically he was and is very anti drink driving, in fact anti-alcohol generally and encouraged friends to report instances of drink driving they suspected to the police.

  3. We need to require every driver who reaches 65, then 70, then every birthday, to provide a medical certificate from a doctor on an approved list (and not from that driver's GP's practice) and an opthalmologist (who has never prescribed for the driver) of fitness - no certificate, no licence. I believe there are machines which cannot be cheated and which test your speed of reaction - that is essential.

    Not the driver's own GP who may well have a conflict of interest.

    1. There are some important issues here - see The Guardian article about old drivers (some over 100 years old). It is true that those over 70 are not (usually) required to provide proof of fitness but neither are those under 70. Also, the elderly have need for transport for access to facilities, shopping and perhaps for mobility reasons.

  4. Indeed: but the older you are the more likely it is that your health and eyesight are not up to it. As for "need" - if you are a danger to yourself and others you should not have a licence - other people need the roads to be safe.