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Tired, texting driver jailed after two cyclists killed

A driver who fell asleep at the wheel and killed two cyclists had been “continuously” texting prior to the collision.

Robert Palmer, 32, mowed down Andrew McMenigall, 47, and Toby Wallace, 36, who died almost instantly in the crash on the A30 in Cornwall in July last year.

The incident happened at around 8.30am when the night time delivery driver, for Frys Logistics in Launceston, was “exhausted” because instead of resting during the day he had been working on vehicle maintenance for the firm, reports The Telegraph.

He also had been using his mobile phone to send text messages while carrying out deliveries in the articulated lorry between Cornwall and Weston-super-Mare for the discount store Lidl.

Jailing Palmer, the judge Christopher Harvey Clark QC said: "The evidence is at the time when this accident occurred you had almost certainly fallen asleep, but it is equally clear you were disregarding the rules of the road by texting continuously and it would seem at length.”

The judge said that Palmer had failed to take sufficient rest and, although it was not a primary cause of the accident, he had been inappropriately and illegally using his mobile telephone.

He added: "You were using it habitually. People who use a handheld mobile telephone and text while driving carry a terrible risk to other road users.”

At an earlier hearing at Truro Crown Court, Palmer, of Grimscott, Cornwall, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and a further charge of dangerous driving in relation to a similar crash weeks later.

He was jailed for eight-and-a-half years and was also banned from driving for 10 years.

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  • Bob - 02/09/2014 14:03

    The question is in relation to "a similar crash weeks later", was this in his private car or was this in relation to his employment? If it was in relation to his employment, why hadn't his employer put him on suspension pending the outcome of the trial, especially as the first crash resulted in two deaths?

  • Edward Handley - 02/09/2014 19:13

    Interesting how much attention seems to be given to the texting issue when it was stated that it was not the cause of the fatal collision. The cause of the collision was simple fatigue and driver fatigue is at least as serious an issue, if not a more serious issue, that using a mobile phone at the wheel. It seems that we have become obsessed with mobiles and are ignoring driver fatigue which research has shown to be responsible for about 300 road deaths per year in the UK alone - significantly more than mobiles, yet its mobile phones that are being held up as public enemy #1! If Palmer had been carrying out deliveries with an articulated lorry, as stated in the article, he would have been subject to the Drivers Hours & tachogragph Regs and the Working Time Directive which lay down strict rules on driver staking adequate rest, and which specifically prohibit drivers from doing other work such as vehicle maintenance. Employers are also liable if they do not ensure that their drivers obey the rules. Presumably Palmer's employers are also facing prosecution. Obviously the story above does not cover all the relevant facts, but based on what there is it will be interesting to see whether they are charged under the Driver's Hours Regs or whether CPS have the nerve to bring a case under Health and Safety at Work Act and Management of H&S at Work Regulations for the company failing to ensure the safety of their employees and the public (see R Vs Produce Connection) or for manslaughter against his manager who may have connived with Palmer in breaking the Regs (see R Vs Graves International) or indeed go for a change of Corporate Manslaughter. If CPS did bring a charge of Corporate manslaughter, it will be the first time a case has been brought for a death on the roads.

  • Nick Simpson - 03/09/2014 08:47

    I agree with Bob & Edward. This story reflects the increasing poor quality of people within the transport industry at all levels. The wishy-washy attitude of the driver seems to be reflected by the company itself, although I don't think jailing anyone solves anything. This driver will probably drive trucks again in the future and I doubt he'll be any safer driver for his time in prison. He & his transport manager should have both been banned from the industry and driving anything larger than a car for life. That is the only way to remove dangerous people from the roads and make the industry safer.

  • Sarah - 08/09/2014 10:24

    What was the fine or penalty for the driver's employer, who allowed the driver to show this behaviour at the wheel and knowingly employed the driver in other activities so as to stop him resting?

  • Edward Handley - 08/09/2014 14:50

    Ultimate responsibility for the behavior of delivery drivers, and indeed all drivers at work, rests with the employer. Employers have a legal duty to ensure that employees and the public are not put at risk. I am quite sure the employer will be prosecuted but the case would have to have been held until the initial case against the driver had been settled. The wheels of justice are incredibly slow! I will be very interested to hear what charges are brought though. Will CPS play it safe or will they have the nerve to go for blood? I doubt Palmer will get his LGV licence back when he gets out of prison. The conduct of drivers with vocational licences is monitored by DVSA who maintain a database and the information is passed to the Traffic Commissioner who is responsible for driver discipline. The TCs have wide powers and are not afraid to use them and they can, and do, suspend or revoke LGV and PCV licences is the holder's conduct is bad enough. Personally I do not think that is enough - drivers like Palmer who are stupid enough to get involved in a similar collision a few weeks later, showing he did not learn from the first, fatal, collision, should be banned from driving anything for life. I am not happy about drivers who kill being sent to prison because it is pointless: Collisions are seldom deliberate, they are the result of distraction, incompetence, or whatever and whether someone dies or not is largely a matter of bad luck. If medical help arrives quickly and the other road user is crippled requiring care 24/7 for the rest of his life instead of dying, is the driving offence causing the crash any less serious because the victim did not die ? Our prisons are seriously overcrowded are locking up a driver for an unintended consequence means releasing someone else, often a violent repeat offender who WILL commit other violent crimes. Most drivers are mortified by the results of their actions and will not offend in that way again - Palmer perhaps being the exception who proves the rule. Banning seriously bad drivers for life would be more effective, and I believe it would be a better deterrent because a lot of people would understand what permanent loss of their licence would mean where as going to prison is an abstract concept to them. Someone who drives while banned however, that's different, because that is a deliberate act.

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