Fuck This

17 November 2014

Low sun. When do we get our collective heads around this apparently unfathomable phenomenon?

The collisions

From the prosecutor’s statement as reported by the Shropshire Star:

Just about 8.20am on October 17, 2012, John Searle was riding his pushbike eastward out of Craven Arms. As he was riding along, Pamela Willocks came up behind him, totally oblivious to his presence. As she came up, the wing mirror struck either his handlebars or Mr Searle, and that caused him to fall where he sustained an injury to his head.

“Travelling some distance behind Mrs Willocks was Russel Davies, driving a VW transporter van with a work colleague. He also didn’t see Mr Searle and drove over him, causing serious injury to his left leg, pelvis and abdomen.

“Another woman was driving behind and also failed to see him, driving over his right leg, causing injury, but nothing as grave as the other injuries.

“Shortly after this Gary Pitkin was driving in the opposite direction with three children in the car. He got out to see what he could do. As he was on the phone to the emergency services another car hit him, breaking his leg.”

A man uses the road entirely lawfully, and a person hits him. Then a second. Then a third.

A man finally sees him in trouble and stops, and he is hit by a fourth person.

Four collisions. Four.

One man is dead. One man is airlifted to hospital.

But we know the outcome. We’ve seen an almost identical incident very recently.

We’ve seen it time and time again, and we’ve seen jurors explicitly advised by a judge to disregard the Highway Code’s advice to slow down when dazzled.

Again, as reported by the Star:

A jury today cleared two motorists of causing the death of a Shropshire cyclist by careless driving.

No surprises. It’s not even “careless”. Not “below the standard expected of a careful and competent driver”.

Again, from the Star:

Davies reiterated denials to claims he had been driving too quickly or was distracted. Pressed on claims he should have been driving slower due to dazzling sunlight, he said: “I thought I was driving at a safe speed for those conditions, I would have been driving slower otherwise.”

But, according to his passenger:

“The van was going about 40 to 50 mph. We went over something in the road, about a mile and a half from Craven Arms. It felt like going over a log or something. Russel said to me ‘What was that?’ and I replied, ‘I don’t know’.”

Hm? Nothing sounding like a problem there? You’re in a van doing 40-50mph and you can’t see what you’re actually driving over and that’s ok?

That’s “driving at a safe speed”?

Lest we forget, of course, our dear friends the expert witnesses. These are the people who tell us there’s no need to move sideways at all if there’s a cyclist ahead in your lane and who will comment on a cyclist’s lean with regard to the camber of the road and who will tell you that hi-viz is camouflage if you’re killed whilst wearing it and who will basically make any possible excuse for a driver who kills:

Constable Ian Edwards, a collision expert for West Mercia Police, told the court sunlight would have been shining directly into the eyes of drivers travelling eastbound on the B4368 between Craven Arms and Bridgnorth on the day Mr Searle was killed.

He told the court it was possible more light would have reflected from water on the road, making it “very difficult” for drivers to judge what was directly ahead of them.

Of course it’s difficult. That’s why 40-50mph isn’t a safe speed. That’s kind of proven by three people driving into the same person and not one of them even fucking seeing him.

The sun is just an excuse. Kill someone, say you couldn’t see while you were driving. Say you were actually, literally, completely fucking blinded—and it’s somehow fine!

How did we ever get to the situation where driving at up to 50mph whilst blinded is acceptable?

How the fuck is “I didn’t see him” anything but an admission of guilt? You’ve got eyes for fuck’s sake. If you can’t see, if your eyes don’t fucking work, don’t carry on at 40-50mph. What do you expect to happen if you’re doing 40-50mph and you can’t fucking see?

This is beyond ridiculous now. It’s a sick joke.

I’m fucking sick of reading about people killed in low sun.

I’m a fucking sight sicker of reading the obscene excuses people give for killing.

I’m sicker still that the legal system fuels these excuses with expert witnesses, and sicker again that juries buy it every fucking time.

Fuck this. We can’t have people doing this.

Surely this sun nonsense needs to stop. It’s legal homicide, nothing less, and every part of the legal process and the driver training process needs to change or hang its head in shame at supporting killing in this way.

Footnote

Thanks (I think) to Ernie for bringing this to my attention.

 

 

Comments

  1. Tim Stredwick (@bicycle_tim) 17 November 2014 11:41pm #

    Hear hear.

  2. Simon Still 18 November 2014 7:20am #

    Great reporting again – in the last article the Star makes the bike the active participant in the first collision giving the impression of fault being with the cyclist.

    “Prosecutors had claimed his bike clipped the wing mirror of a car driven by Pamela Willocks before being hit by a van driven by Mr Davies.”

    • cyclingmatt 18 November 2014 8:29am #

      Why is there the presumption of guilt on behalf of the cyclist? Which do you think is the more likely version of what happened?

      a) “his bike clipped the wing mirror of a car driven by Pamela Willocks before being hit by a van driven by Mr Davies”; or
      b) Pamela Willocks drove too close to the cyclist and hit him with the wing mirror?

  3. cyclingmatt 18 November 2014 7:51am #

    Utterly depressing. Every year the sun stays low in the sky during the northern winter so this is hardly a new and strange phenomenon! What is it that we need to have happen before the judiciary takes road safety seriously?

  4. Phil Fouracre 18 November 2014 8:37am #

    Really depressing, just do not know what the answer is. People’s attitude generally, and driving in particular – these are the same people who end up on juries. Can’t win

  5. chrisrust 18 November 2014 8:57am #

    Don’t forget that you can always join the Road Justice Campaign
    http://www.roadjustice.org.uk/
    This is right at the sharp end of their work.

  6. chrisrust 18 November 2014 9:50am #

    Hi Bez, I decided to share this on Facebook but once I had done it I realised that the title just causes too many problems, people who don’t ‘know’ you will not get it and decide it’s (in their terms) a foul-mouthed rant. So I took it off. If you decided to change the title I would be pleased to share it. Problem is that currently a great big “Fuck This” appears in all my friends’ Facebook pages, including morally strict Christians and people who are ready to decide that cyclists are arrogant.:o)

    • Bez 18 November 2014 9:57am #

      Mm. Thanks. Point taken, and it’s something I considered when posting it: the blog’s become rather less angry and sweary than its first few posts. I don’t think being sweary helps the debate, though it does release some rage 🙂 …though, for whatever reason, the sweary stuff does travel further and faster.

      In the light of morning I agree it would be best to change it. Though I can’t without breaking all the existing links, so I think it’ll have to stay.

      Maybe I need to effectively reproduce At The Going Down of The Sun and In The Morning to include the more recent cases.

      • chrisrust 18 November 2014 10:06am #

        There’s something about this one, the sheer horror of several drivers all taking part in this act of manslaughter and the court’s wilful and harshly ironic blindness. I can fully see why you were so angry and wasn’t worried myself by the language, quite the opposite. But it’s such a powerful story that it could be viral, hence my concern to make it shareable.

      • dr2chase 19 November 2014 12:59am #

        “Sun accidentally rises in East, again”

  7. Nora 18 November 2014 11:31am #

    Of course the ‘author’ fails to consider the fact that a sudden light change could have been responsible, and that trying to slow down from 50 to 20 every time the light changed is even more dangerous. The cyclist shouldn’t have been on the road if light problems are known in that area.The cyclist clearly caused the accident and caused his own death. There’s no sense in punishing the drivers. Terrible article written by an idot.

    • Bez 18 November 2014 11:37am #

      Have you looked at the scene of the collision? It’s a fairly straight road with a steady gradient.

      I’m not even going to grace the rest of that comment with a response. You’re either trolling or your sociopathic attitude is so beyond the pale that there’s no hope of bringing it back.

      In a way I hope you get a mechanical failure on a road in low sun, have to get out, and get mown down. I don’t actually hope for that, of course. I simply hope that you might consider that scenario, whereby you’d be quite content with causing your own death.

      Happy driving.

      • chrisrust 18 November 2014 11:58am #

        Yes the driver’s evidence is quite clear, he said that he felt he was safe at that speed in those conditions. If there had been a sudden change in the light the driver’s lawyer would have ensured that was in the evidence. The fact that several successive drivers drove into the victims over a period of time, enough time for the second victim to see the problem, stop and get out of his car, is also evidence that this was not a sudden thing.

        Also, there’s a great contradiction in Nora’s assertions. If she expects cyclists to take special account of known dangers then drivers must also do that. The fact is than nobody can be aware in advance of all possible dangers at every location so proper caution and ability to recognise risk and respond intelligently is the only protection we have.

        Nora, sadly you are the problem here. If you want to get behind the wheel of a lethal machine you have to take responsibility for the risks created. If you are saying that vulnerable users should stay away from the roads maybe you should ask your MP to campaign for a law to force that? You might be surprised by the response you get.

    • Bez 18 November 2014 11:46am #

      Also, since you’re quite unequivocal about the blame here, I’d be interested in your opinion on the case of Ray Elsmore:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-27982163

      He was killed by a driver who didn’t slow down in low sun and completely failed to see him. Was he at fault for being on a zebra crossing? Was the local authority at fault for expecting him to work at that location? Should we ban the use of road crossings during times of low sun? What if one of the children had been using the crossing and had been hit; would they be to blame? Would the council have been to blame for installing a crossing at a place where the sun shines?

      I’d appreciate your ideas on how people might cross roads at dusk or dawn, or at almost any time in winter. Should we dig underpasses for all roads? Should we only ever cross roads at night or on overcast days?

      Would love to hear your ideas on this.

    • Lio 18 November 2014 12:50pm #

      This is an unsophisticated parody, right? It isn’t meant to be serious is it? If it is and you have the right to vote, we’re all in much more serious trouble than I thought.

    • D. 18 November 2014 4:04pm #

      Nora – the *cars* shouldn’t have been on the road if light problems are known in that area.

      Please go back under the bridge you came from: the billy goats gruff might be coming along soon!

      (And, finally, it’s spelt “i-d-i-o-t”).

      Have a nice day, now!

      • chrisrust 18 November 2014 4:27pm #

        And, finally, it’s spelt “i-d-i-o-t”
        I quite like idot, it’s a kind of artificial un-intelligence device made by Apple

    • Ian 18 November 2014 4:45pm #

      It might have been a tractor, or a broken-down HGV. There’s a reason why you are supposed to drive to the conditions, and be able to stop in the distance you can SEE to be clear (that’s SEE, not imagine, hope, expect or want). With a bit of luck next time you’re driving into the sun it’ll be tank transporter.

    • Andrew Taylor 18 November 2014 8:11pm #

      Any other victims you care to blame for being killed, maybe those foolish people who tried to start a new life in America by traveling on the Titanic. Drivers are required to be aware of changes in their surroundings including bright sunlight, ever hear of sunglasses! Troll

      • Andrew Taylor 18 November 2014 8:12pm #

        Sorry – my post of 20:11 was directed at Nora

    • radfahrarzt 18 November 2014 8:43pm #

      A sudden light change which happened 3 times in close succession ?
      Perhaps you need to become a pedestrian and cyclist for a month or two and witness close at hand how blase a high proportion of drivers are simply because its something they do everyday. And noreover everybody does it so it must be ok, it must be morally acceptable.
      You are unbelievable.

  8. chrisrust 18 November 2014 12:01pm #

    Stay cool Bez, it only encourages them if you show your anger. I’ve been there.

  9. mrmo 18 November 2014 3:48pm #

    I really wish I knew what could be done. As long as we have drivers judging drivers, and drivers who believe that killing people is acceptable, that driving in a manner that, if you though about it, is dangerous. what hope is there.
    Any people bleat on about helmets and hi viz!

  10. maybe 18 November 2014 4:16pm #

    When will people stop playing with children’s toys on public roads? Every fucking day some twat is holding everyone else up. Fuck ‘cyclists’, if I decided I wanted to skateboard to work would they support that?

    • Bez 18 November 2014 4:18pm #

      One of the nice things about children’s toys, of course, is that they tend not to be lethal when used by someone who behaves like a child.

    • chrisrust 18 November 2014 4:20pm #

      maybe, You are a lethal accident waiting to happen, calm down and grow up. And always remember that the greatest cause of traffic congestion and delay is too many cars.

    • Bez 18 November 2014 4:20pm #

      PS: Please see my question to Nora above regarding Ray Elsmore. (Unless you want to define shoes as “children’s toys”.) I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

    • A Legitimate Road User 18 November 2014 4:21pm #

      Maybe:

      Yes – we would support you skateboarding on the public roads because they are just that. They are public, paid for out of general taxation and therefore “free” (or should that be “available”?) for all to use.

      Now crawl back under the rock from whence you came and stop being a troll!

    • chrisrust 18 November 2014 4:23pm #

      Skateboarding is a fun and efficient way of getting around, I know quite a few people who use them to get to work and study. I don’t think anybody has been killed by a skateboarder yet?

    • Ernie Marples (@ErnieMarples) 18 November 2014 4:37pm #

      “Every fucking day some twat is holding everyone else up. ”
      And said twat is most likely to be driving a car.

      Were you suckered in by the fancy advert showing a 4×4 swishing effortlessly through deserted city streets and out into the open countryside? Reality sucks, doesn’t it?

    • Andrew Taylor 18 November 2014 8:17pm #

      maybe – I’m an earlier starter at work and whist sat in my office I often glance out of the window & see long queues of motor vehicles not one of them held up by cyclists, please explain this as you seem to think only cyclists hold traffic up and by the way cyclists are traffic.

  11. chrisrust 18 November 2014 4:21pm #

    Whoops sorry, that reply was intended for “maybe” sorry mrmo, you are clearly a sensible and intelligent member of the community.

    • Bez 18 November 2014 4:22pm #

      ‘s ok, I already I edited it to save your blushes 🙂

  12. BillG 18 November 2014 4:46pm #

    Don’t feed the trolls.

    Perfectly correct in all other sentiments.

    Bill G

  13. Andrew Shenava 18 November 2014 5:42pm #

    I am going to preface this with me stating I do ride a peddle bike on the roads…

    John Searle was riding his bike in the same “apparently unfathomable phenomenon” of a low sun with them other drivers… the weather and sun were the same for everyone on that road.

    You can’t say Pamela Willocks, Russel Davies and the third unnamed driver should have adapted their driver to the conditions without saying John Searle should of see the danger he was in.

    Now…I understand this has all the hall marks of victim blaming. Not saying it right or fair but if I was on the jury I would most likely of come a similar verdict.

    Also, being completely honest with myself I can’t say if I was driver that day on that road that I would not have done the same and ran over John Searle. Completely shameful I know and hopefully the next time I am faced with being blinded with the sun I keep John Searle in mind and slow to a crawl or stop.

    Also drive a white van for my sins…

    • Bez 18 November 2014 7:01pm #

      Searle would have been doing around 10mph at that point. Two questions: What’s the stopping distance at 10mph, and what happens when someone is hit by c. 80kg of bike and rider at 10mph or less? Once you have those answers it should be patently clear why riding up that hill on a bicycle is harmless whilst driving a car or van up it at five times that speed is not.

    • chrisrust 18 November 2014 7:10pm #

      It’s everybody’s responsibility to avoid causing a collision. But that doesn’t extend to staying off the road because somebody might collide with you by driving irresponsibly. We would all have to stay at home.

      No reason to believe that Searle was unsighted, He wasn’t looking through a windscreen which could add glare and he didn’t need to look a long way ahead. Remember that he didn’t collide with anybody so there’s no reason to believe that he was taking any risk. Nobody is saying don’t drive into the sun, just match your speed to your visibility so ensure you can stop if something appears out of the glare. Same as fog, snow, rain.

    • mrmo 18 November 2014 8:08pm #

      Andrew S, what you are saying is correct on many levels, it is why juries are so reluctant to convict because they know it could have been them.
      As for the cyclist, i ride to work on a road that i know that for a week in the autumn just before the clocks change will be affected by low sun. However i don’t have much of an option. There is no practical alternative without going miles, i think about 4 out of my way. I can put all the lights, all the hi viz etc on. But i am always reliant on the drivers to pay attention.

      And to be honest, this isn’t about cyclists, the crash last year due to fireworks on the m5, or the canvey island bridge last year, drivers drive to what they believe is in front and don’t look.

    • D. 19 November 2014 3:47pm #

      “…a peddle bike…” – is that some kind of cargo bike, or a bike with a trailer?

  14. Phil Fouracre 18 November 2014 5:56pm #

    Gets me, the bit about ‘holding people up’! Even the glorious Clarkson agrees, the more cyclists, the less congestion!!

  15. chrisrust 18 November 2014 7:18pm #

    These comments about staying off the road because somebody else might be unsighted are really weird. “Hey you, if you drive a car don’t drive with your back to the sun because a driver coming the other way might overtake, be unsighted and smack into you.” “And you there on the motorcycle, don’t you know that some people fail to notice motorcycles and pull out in front of them, stay at home or it will be your fault if you are killed.”

    • CambridgeVelocipedestrienne 18 November 2014 9:56pm #

      “These comments about staying off the road because somebody else might be unsighted are really weird.”

      Don’t drive on roads with blind bends because some people are idiots and take them too fast on the wrong side of the road!
      Don’t drive on motorways because some people are tailgating bell-ends!
      Don’t share roads with idiots! Take a stand! Abandon all journeys whether leisure, work, shopping or seeing friends and relatives!

  16. michael farla 18 November 2014 9:52pm #

    This case surely should go to the Attorney General for a review of the judge’s comments to the jury?

  17. CambridgeVelocipedestrienne 18 November 2014 10:03pm #

    Also, how many of those 4 drivers stopped?

  18. rdrf 18 November 2014 11:58pm #

    Bez,

    Good points and good post as usual.

    But why the troll?

    • Bez 18 November 2014 11:59pm #

      Why what troll?

  19. D. 19 November 2014 9:23am #

    I think that ‘Nora’, ‘maybe’, and ”Andrew Shenara’ are the same person.

    Bez – I think the points you make are completely correct, and I wish that more people coulds articulate their anger the way you do. Maybe if more people riding bikes could get across to the powers that be their anger over decisions made in court and elsewhere, less people would be sacrificed to the convenience of the private motor car.

    • Bez 19 November 2014 9:34am #

      I don’t think they’re the same. “maybe” gave a fake email address containing “faggot cyclists gay”, though, so a wholly unsurprising tick in the homophobe box there.

      • mrmo 19 November 2014 10:20am #

        throw in immigrant and you would have had the whole set. I really do despair about this country at times.

  20. mrmo 19 November 2014 10:23am #

    just thought this mattered, from the highway code, I guess because it doesn’t have a must or a should it is completely optional?

    237

    Keep your vehicle well ventilated to avoid drowsiness. Be aware that the road surface may become soft or if it rains after a dry spell it may become slippery. These conditions could affect your steering and braking. If you are dazzled by bright sunlight, slow down and if necessary, stop.

  21. D. 19 November 2014 3:48pm #

    “In the Petterson trial earlier this year, a notorious “low sun” case, the judge explicitly guided the jury to ignore the Highway Code.” – which was absolutely disgusting.

  22. Robbie Burns 21 November 2014 12:19pm #

    Jeez. Keep up the good work Bez.

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