Court rules leaving a vehicle in a hazardous position amounts to careless driving

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Drivers are being warned to take care when parking their vehicles after a case at the Court of Appeal highlighted how they don’t need to be behind the wheel to be found guilty of causing death by careless driving.

This happened to delivery driver Raymond Jenkins. On a cold but clear December day, with the winter sun low in the sky, he attempted to deliver building supplies to premises off the A68 in County Durham.

Being unable to drive into the entrance to the premises, due to other vehicles blocking it, Jenkins had to park his lorry on the A68. He did so near a right-hand bend and where the road, which was a single carriageway in both directions, was subject to double white lines.

To compensate for this he left his hazards on, his lights on and the engine running. He also believed he had left sufficient room to get around his vehicle safely. He left his vehicle to visit the premises and was gone for 10 minutes.

However, the practical effect of this was to force drivers travelling in the same direction as him to drive around his parked vehicle, thus crossing the double white lines.

“There were a number of drivers who had difficulties,” said Philip Somarakis, head of the motoring offences team at Davenport Lyons.

“One had to make an emergency stop to avoid hitting his vehicle.”

However, a van driver was not so fortunate. He ploughed into the parked vehicle, and was killed instantly. It was estimated by the police that he hit Jenkins’ stationary vehicle at between 50-60mph.

Somarakis, who is also company secretary at ACFO, said: “Jenkins was charged with causing death by careless driving.”

The police claimed his driving had fallen below the standard one would expect of a competent driver in that he created an unnecessary hazard.

“It was argued by Jenkins’ defence team that he had taken reasonable precautions,” said Somarakis. “Also, as his driving had ceased some 10 minutes before, long before the van driver had crashed into his vehicle, there was no actual ‘driving’ at the time of the accident and therefore he could not be guilty of causing death by careless driving.”

However, Jenkins was convicted and received a 15-month jail sentence and a driving ban of two years.

The same points were argued at length before the Court of Appeal, but three judges agreed that Jenkins had caused an unnecessary hazard which was bordering on the dangerous. They also rejected his defence team’s argument that he was no longer ‘driving’.

Somarakis explained: “They said the offence is causing death by careless driving, not causing death while driving carelessly.
“In other words the act of driving and the accident resulting in death do not have to occur together – there can be a delay which in this case was some 10 minutes.”

He added: “This case is interesting because it confirms that once a vehicle is parked up where it causes an obvious risk, responsibility for that vehicle nevertheless continues with the driver who cannot claim that he has now ceased driving.”

The case is important for all drivers and also for employers who send staff out on work-related journeys, particularly where deliveries have to be made.

Somarakis concluded: “Drivers who cause unnecessary obstructions to other road users or pedestrians by their parking will face legal consequences because of their actions – employers may also be liable as well.”

Davenport Lyons driving offences team provides advice in relation to the offences of speeding, drink driving or going through a red traffic light. For further information, click here.

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  • Mike - 04/03/2013 20:11

    This is a nonsense. Whatever happened to being able to stop within the distance you can see? If someone drives into the back of a stationary vehicle, it is the fault of the driver, not the stationary vehicle! Mr Jenkins needs a better lawyer and we need more rational judges!

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  • Rob Moore - 05/03/2013 08:06

    The cause of the death was the van driver failing to watch where he was going and travelling at a speed at which he could not stop in time. A CONTRIBUTORY FACTOR was the lorry which was stupidly parked. The judge is WRONG in this case by ascribing blame to the lorry driver. That's like a council not putting a fence at the top of a cliff and being prosecuted for assisted suicide if someone jumps off; it's nonsense.

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  • Derek Cooper - 25/06/2013 07:37

    Quite a simple answer here. The lorry driver was at fault. The fact that the road he parked on and the fact the area of road is governed by DOUBLE white lines. This indicator alone would have been enough for most drivers to know that the lines already dictated a danger on that portion of the road. More paint more danger.

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