Fleet News

Legal: hands-free devices whilst driving

Alan Scott-Davies further explores legal implications of the recent death by dangerous driving case involving a hands-free conversation.

I followed the case of Sharmila Mistry who was on trial at Leicester Crown Court for two counts of causing Death by Careless Driving. My interest was the implications of hands free devices whilst driving.

The Defendant was accused of mounting the pavement killing two children because she was distracted whilst using her hands-free mobile phone.  The children were waiting at a pedestrian crossing!

Her vehicle was ‘diverted’ towards the toddlers after she was involved in a crash with another vehicle. Although this other vehicle was crossing a junction illegally, and against a red light, the Defendant Sharmila Mistry was driving in excess of the 30 mph and failed to notice the car.

However the jury did not find her guilty of the deaths of those two toddlers but found her guilty of the lesser offence of careless driving. Her sentence was an 18 month ban and a £3,000 fine. 

I don’t agree with the verdict, or the sentence, but that is just my view. Unfortunately you rarely get a jury that finds a driver guilty of death by careless driving or dangerous driving because human nature makes people think “There but for the grace of God go I.”

It is perfectly understandable that the families feel such pain at this verdict particularly as Judge Ebraham Mooncey commented on the fact that the Defendant had attended a speed awareness course only 6 months earlier for an earlier offence – of speeding!

You can summarize the actions of this Defendant along the following lines;

  • She was speeding in a built-up area.
  • She failed to notice that she was speeding.
  • She failed to notice that the traffic lights she was approaching had turned amber.
  • She failed to notice the road-works or a lorry that she had just overtaken on the approach.
  • She hit another vehicle as she crossed a junction because that vehicle had also jumped the lights.
  • She lost control of her vehicle and killed two toddlers when she mounted the pavement on which they were standing.

This was all due to the fact that she was distracted because she was using her hands-free mobile phone. Is this Careless Driving or Dangerous Driving?

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  • Jimmy - 31/03/2014 00:54

    The sentence seems accurate. Punishing the lady any further will be unfair because of the following facts: Too many people drive between 30 and 40 on "30 " roads. Using hands free is legal in the uk. Crossing when Amber isn't illegal. The tragic death is because of failure of the system for which an individual cannot be punished any more than what has been done. On UK roads, drivers don't obey limits, that's a fact known to all - thankfully to the jury and judges too.

  • adam smith - 12/05/2014 11:59

    What phone call is so important they have to take their mind off the road? I dont care how long people have been driving for, or what their job title could suggest, they still cannot mind read what other road users are doing. 100% attention of the road at all times, no matter what or else, face the consequence.

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