An HGV driver who slammed his 44-tonne lorry into the back of a car at a busy Fife roundabout wept as he swerved a jail sentence.
Sheila Blyth was left with a broken neck after Robert Bell hit her at speed at Kirkcaldy’s Redhouse Roundabout in June 2019.
Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court heard that despite wearing a seatbelt, the force of the collision threw Ms Blyth from the driver’s seat into the rear of her car.
In the aftermath of the crash Bell was mistakenly led to believe Ms Blyth had passed away as a result of the crash.
The crash closed the A92 for several hours, with traffic queues reported to be up to three miles long.
On Tuesday Bell was banned from driving but escaped a custodial sentence and was instead placed on a curfew.
Fiscal depute Matt Piskorz told the court that a dashcam in Bell’s vehicle indicated that he had been driving at a “constant” 56mph and there was no gradual deceleration prior to the crash.
He said: “The accused was driving an HGV plated at 44 tonnes and was pulling a trailer with a 40ft container that was partially laden.
“At 7.55am the complainer was driving eastbound at the locus in lane one and behind her was the accused.
“Traffic was heavy on approach to the roundabout and both lanes were queuing. The complainer was keeping sufficient distance (from the traffic in front) and was accelerating and braking.
“On looking in her mirror she saw the accused’s vehicle approaching at speed. Two other witnesses ahead of the complainer’s vehicle also saw the vehicle approaching at speed and took evasive action.
“The accused’s vehicle collided with the complainer’s vehicle, pushing it into the central barrier. It then rebounded and collided with the rear of a vehicle in front of it.
“Due to the severity of the incident, and despite using a seat belt the complainer was thrown from the front seat to the rear seat.”
He said the unconscious Ms Blyth was removed from her vehicle due to it leaking fuel and was treated by a nurse at the scene before being taken to hospital.
Her injuries included cuts and grazes, a head injury and breaks to two bones in her neck, which required seven hours of surgery to insert plates and screws.
Mr Piskorz said medics had indicated that without treatment Ms Blyth’s injuries could have been “life-threatening”.
Police told Bell wrong charge
Solicitor Martin McGuire, defending, said police officers had mistakenly given Bell the impression that Ms Blyth had been killed in the smash.
They told him he was being charged under section 1 of the Road Traffic Act – causing death by dangerous driving – rather than section 1A of the act – causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
He said: “That was erroneous. However he still greatly regrets that Ms Blyth suffered injury.
“What seems to have happened is that Mr Bell has failed to react to Ms Blyth’s vehicle braking sharply for traffic ahead.
“He recognises that this is a serious matter.”
‘It does cross the threshold for a custodial sentence’
Sheriff Neil Bowie told Bell that it was only his health and lack of previous convictions that had kept him out of prison.
He said: “I accept you didn’t mean for this accident to happen but clearly there were devastating consequences of your lack of attention.
“This was due to you not having sufficient attention whilst working as a professional driver in a long and heavy vehicle.
“It was significant injuries the complainer suffered and it’s by good grace that they weren’t worse.”
He banned Bell from driving for four years and placed him on an overnight curfew for nine months.
Bell, of Lomond Drive, Falkirk, had originally faced a charge of dangerous driving.
At Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court last month the 59-year-old admitted a charge of culpable and reckless driving by failing to to account for the road conditions or preceding traffic and failed to slow or stop.
He collided with the rear of Ms Blyth’s vehicle, causing it to collide with a van in front.
Ms Blyth’s vehicle was extensively damaged and she was severely injured as a result