Fleets have been warned to ensure they have effective safety policies in place after newly-released footage showed a delivery driver smoking and eating at the wheel shortly before a fatal crash.
The dashcam and in-cab footage shows the journey leading up to the collision in Lincolnshire last year in which two elderly occupants of an oncoming car – a married couple – lost their lives.
The driver of the 7.5-tonne delivery truck, Michael Boothman, had entered a right-hand bend too fast and veered onto the opposite carriageway.
Boothman, who worked for a logistics company, and his passenger were both seriously injured.
Police analysis of cameras installed in the truck’s cab revealed that Boothman was smoking and eating for much of his journey and repeatedly took his hands off the wheel.
After he was jailed for two years in December, police released footage of the journey leading up to the accident as a warning to companies and drivers that distractions from driving can cost lives. Footage of the actual crash has not been released out of respect to the family of the victims.
PC Michelle Ford, a forensic collision investigator for Lincolnshire Police, said: “All the evidence within this cab on the journey up to the collision just shows his disregard for his driving.
“Here we have a driver who has a poor attitude to risk and no regard for the law. He doesn’t pay attention to speed limits, neither he nor his passenger wear a seatbelt, he is smoking while he is driving and eating and is just not in control of that vehicle. The judge was right, this was an accident waiting to happen.”
Boothman admitted two charges of causing death by careless driving at Lincoln Crown Court in December and was sentenced to two years in jail, banned from driving for three years and ordered to pass a re-test before he can have his licence back.
The court heard that he suffered significant injuries in the crash and has since had to have a total hip replacement. He also lost his job for breaching company rules about smoking at the wheel.
John Siddle, of the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership, said the footage should serve as a sobering reminder to other businesses of the vital importance of effective on-road risk management.
He said: “For smaller fleets, where it is often very busy and the focus is on getting the job done, the importance of having the right policies in place can be forgotten.
“It is vital that companies have a written policy in place and that they monitor drivers carefully.”
He added that this was particularly important when dealing with agency drivers.
While business pressure may encourage companies to send new staff straight out on the road, the potential consequences in the event of a collision need to be considered.
Siddle added: “It is only a matter of time before a company and its directors end up being prosecuted for corporate manslaughter following a road accident. Without a policy in place, companies and their directors will find it very hard to defend themselves.”
The case comes shortly after the conviction for manslaughter of a haulage boss and his mechanic over the deaths of four people in Bath after the brakes failed on one of the company’s tipper trucks. The driver was cleared of blame (full story commercialfleet.org/Bath-tipper-crash).
Van and truck operators were warned recently to tighten up on their risk management procedures after the Sentencing Council ramped up the penalties for companies whose vehicles are involved in serious accidents.
Mark Cartwright, head of vans at the Freight Transport Association, said the council had increased the level of fines and custodial terms: “This is a real game changer and I don’t think many fleets have got their heads around it yet.”
Siddle also urged companies to educate drivers about the proper use of seatbelts. Many delivery drivers believe they are exempt from wearing seatbelts because they make multiple stops.
However, the Highway Code states that drivers are only exempt if they travel less than 50 metres between deliveries.