Monthly Archives: May 2011

May 31, 2011
Should we listen to our American Cousins?

They were almost identical cases, 3,000 miles apart, each costing the lives of two young people killed by a drunk, speeding driver.

Dominic Hartley and Emily Lewis, both 21, were mown down and killed after landing dream jobs at a summer camp in America last June.

And in the UK, Mark Crompton, 20, and his 19-year-old girlfriend Jodie Brown died instantly when a Jaguar hit them at more than 100mph.

But it is not only simple ­geography that separates the shocking deaths.

For while in both cases the drivers were jailed for their crimes, their ­families say their punishments expose an inadequacy in ­the British judicial system.

While Dominic and Emily’s killer, Peter Goldblatt, 40, got 25 years in a case that took just six months to reach US courts, relatives of Mark and Jodie had to wait almost three years for justice, and were horrified when Mary Butres, 49, was given just over seven and a half years.

Mark’s mother Beverley Crompton, from Swinstead, Lincs, says: “I was so angry when I learned they’d been killed by a drink-driver.

“I would never drink before getting behind the wheel, not even a sip.

“But for this woman to ­receive such a tiny sentence for taking two lives – where’s the punishment in that? It’s just so wrong.”

The ­sentiment is echoed by charity Brake, which campaigned for a sentencing ­guideline review for causing death by dangerous driving and death by ­careless driving while under the ­influence of ­­drink or drugs.

In the UK, the maximum penalty is ­14 years. But Brake campaigns director Julie Townsend says: “It’s ­extremely rare for the ­maximum, or ­anything even close to it, to be handed down.

“Families who have had loved ones taken from them through selfish, criminal driving feel grossly let down by the criminal justice ­system. They don’t feel the punishment fits the crime and its consequences.”

Mark and Jodie were on the A1 in May 2007 when their Ford Fiesta hit ­water and skidded into the ­central ­reservation. But as they walked away from the car – with Jodie’s older brother Nick, 39 – they were hit by company director Butres, who had lost control of business partner ­John Nichols’ Jaguar XJ8 after a boozy ­day out. Witnesses said the car came at Mark and Jodie “like a bullet”.

The tragic pair were thrown 50 feet and landed on the opposite ­carriageway.

Nick – who survived the smash but needed eight operations to fix his broken leg, ribs, arm and shoulder – says: “I still wake up in the night and see Jodie and Mark lying in the road, dying.

“I believe a life for a life – if you take someone’s life, then yours should be taken. Nichols was so arrogant after the accident that I wanted to hit him.

“Mark and Jodie were dead and his ­attitude to me was ‘at least you’re OK’. He couldn’t see the seriousness of what he’d done by lending Butres his car and with a four-year sentence in an open prison, ­I doubt that’s changed.”

The Jaguar’s data recorder tagged ­Butres’ speed at 113mph. She had shared a bottle and a half of wine with Nichols before driving back home from a day out at ­Nottingham Racecourse.

She admitted causing death by dangerous driving.

Millionaire packing firm boss Nichols – who denied the same offence but was found guilty – had allowed her to drive because he had “drunk the majority”.

Driving instructor Beverley, 47, recalls: “I remember pacing around the hospital car park and my husband Nick coming out and shaking his head.

“Mark was gone. I was devastated. It was only later that I learned Jodie had been killed, too. I just couldn’t ­believe they were both dead, it didn’t seem real. It makes you wonder what you have to do to get the maximum sentence.

“It seems two lives are only worth a seven-and-a-half year sentence. Do you have to kill four? A coachload?”

In a similar case, Dominic Hartley, of Bredon, Worcs, landed the job of a lifetime as part of his ­adventure sports ­management course at Swansea University.

Familiar with the US from family trips, Dominic was keen to spend his year-long placement on the other side of the ­Atlantic, and secured work at Echo Lake summer camp in Warrensburg, New York.

His mother Bernie, 53, a community midwife, explains: “He’d been there a couple of weeks and was having the time of his life.

“We’d had emails and he’d told us he was ‘living the dream’. His managers thought he was a natural ­born leader.

“Then one evening, my husband Andrew told me police ­had called from America – Dominic had been killed by a drink-driver.

“I didn’t believe it was true, ­I was ­convinced that they’d made a mistake.

“We then switched on the news and there it was – the story was already ­breaking on the television.

“We were destroyed – you say goodbye to your son thinking he’s going to come home – and then he doesn’t.”

Peter Goldblatt was in a 4X4, one and a half times the drink-drive limit, when he ploughed into ­Dominic and Emily as they stood with friends.

Dominic died at the scene and Emily later died in hospital.

Bernie says: “It was five days before we heard from the British Embassy and two weeks before the coroner got in touch. The British ­mentality was ‘can’t do’ – we were appalled.

“By comparison, the A­merican system was ­incredible. We were told Goldblatt would be dealt with within six months – and he was.

“Sentencing here is ­rubbish. A few ­25-year jail terms would soon give people a wake-up call.

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May 30, 2011
HAVE YOU GOT THE CORRECT DRIVING GLASSES

If you need to wear glasses for driving, it is important that you continue to wear prescriptions glasses even if the sun is shining.

Buying prescription sunglasses is similar to buying a normal pair however, you must check that the lens has the ability to block UV light, most come with this as standard.

However, it is also advisable to check whether they have polarized lenses. By opting for this, they will filter out certain types of lights especially the reflection of horizontal surfaces such as the car bonnet and roads, especially if they are wet.

Not wearing the correct glasses, whether they are a standard pair or sunglasses could result in you being stopped by the police. If you need glasses to read a number plate: 20 metres for vehicles displaying the new-style number plate or 20.5 metres for vehicles displaying old-style number plates then you must wear glasses at all times whilst driving.

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May 27, 2011
THEORY TEST POLICY TO CHANGE IN 2012

From 1st January 2012 learners will be expected to know the principles behind driving theory as opposed to just memorising the questions and answers. In order to do this theory test questions will no longer be published.

Safety campaigners are welcoming the move as they feel by making the theory test more difficult, some road accidents could potentially be avoided.

Learners of course are concerned with the number of hours they will need to invest in order to be up-to-date and understand the theory behind driving.

The theory is introducing you to ideas behind driving, the rules and regulations you must follow and helps you to understand and recognise potential hazards. Practical driving lessons then allows you to be familiar with being on the road and ensures that you can apply what you are learning to practical situations.

The DSA (Driving Standards Agency) despite not publishing questions used in the theory test, will still allow questions and answers similar to those used to be available in order to help with revision.

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May 26, 2011
99 and Going Strong

A Dorset woman just weeks away from her 100th birthday is still driving and enjoying the open road.

Peggy Hovel, 99, from West Parley, Ferndown, learned to drive in 1925 at the age of 15, but had to wait until she was 16 before she got her licence.

She was already driving when compulsory driving tests were introduced on 1 June 1935.

Ms Hovel, who turns 100 on 24 July, said driving “just came naturally”.

“I do like speed,” said Ms Hovel, whose car registration plate is HO0RAH. “I’ve always loved driving fast.”

‘Strapped in’

When asked to list the main differences between driving in 1925 and driving now, she said: “We used hand signals.

“Turning right you had to open the window and put your arm out, and turning left you circled your right arm out of the window.”

Ms Hovel added that condensation on the windscreen was difficult.

She said: “You just couldn’t clear the fogs because there weren’t any windscreen wipers.”

Ms Hovel has had two falls while walking on uneven ground and therefore said she felt safer driving.

She said: “In a car you’re strapped in, you can’t fall out.”

Ms Hovel said she would think about giving up driving when she feels “less confident”.

“I shall know when to stop, which I hope will be some long time hence,” she said.

There have been calls for motorists to take a driving test when they reach the age of 70.

But Stephen Small, a spokesman for the Driving Standards Agency, said there were no plans to introduce “re-tests”.

He said: “Evidence does not show older drivers to be a demographic more likely to cause a serious accident than others, and there are many older drivers who are aware of their limitations and manage their driving responsibly.”

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May 25, 2011
DRIVERS SHOCKED INTO SUBMISSION BY BLEEDING BILLBOARD

Paparuka District Council in New Zealand have taken drastic measures to remind drivers to drive carefully during rainy season.

They have installed a billboard which shows the picture of a young boy, when it rains the picture bleeds and this fresh faced boy appears to be a crash victim. Once the sunshine appears again, the picture returns to normal. The board has the headline ‘Rain changes everything. Please drive to the conditions’.

The country has a high death toll due to the dangers of driving in wet conditions yet since introducing the billboards there hasn’t been any fatal accidents in the area.

There have been mixed reviews, with some claiming its too disturbing however, there is no denying that the billboards have been effective. The ad has gone on to win awards at the International Advertising Festival.

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May 24, 2011
Chinese Drink Driving campaign hits a low

Chinese campaign to cut drink-driving appears to be entering the slow lane, weeks after it began with a tough new law and a high-profile conviction. Authorities hoped that making drink-driving a crime would help to cut one of the highest road death tolls in the world and tackle the effects of a hard-drinking culture. Previously motorists could be jailed only if they had caused a serious accident, with most offenders facing civil or administrative penalties.

After the law was introduced on 1 May police checks were stepped up and quickly netted a TV celebrity, leading to the sentencing of China’s Got Talent judge Gao Xiaosong to six months in jail. The law says drink-drivers should be fined and jailed for one to six months and should lose their right to drive for five years. Those who cause a serious accident may lose the right to drive permanently. But the Supreme People’s Court has now urged lower courts to use their discretion, the English language state newspaper China Daily reported, saying it did so because the practice is so common in China.The court cited an article in the criminal law saying: “Offences that cause very little harm to society shall not be accounted for as crimes.”

Lawyer Li Gang of the Chengdu Faxian law firm said the law had already cut drink-driving rates and he was totally opposed to watering it down. “It is not too harsh; it is to protect people’s rights to life, health and property. Drunk-driving is very dangerous; no matter whether it has a result, it should be forbidden as long as the danger exists,” he said.

According to state media, 65,000 people were killed in traffic accidents in 2010, although experts have suggested the real figure is much higher. Police caught more than half a million drunk drivers last year, a 68% increase on 2009, according to the Ministry of Public Security, probably reflecting growing car ownership and more stringent checks rather than a particularly sharp increase in driving while drunk.

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May 23, 2011
EMERGENCY SERVICES DRIVER CONVICTED OF DRINK DRIVING

An ambulance driver has been found guilty of being over the drink drive limit whilst on duty.

Mr Else was attending a 999 call when he was involved in a seven-vehicle pile-up in Stapleford, no one was seriously injured although some did suffer from broken bones.

Mr Else pleaded guilty to driving whilst under the influence and was given a 12-month community order and 200 hours unpaid work. He was also disqualified from driving for two years.

Else no longer works as an ambulance driver after being dismissed and spokesman for the Ambulance Service said not only did he break our requirements to not be under the influence of alcohol whist on duty but he also broke the law and we will not tolerate this.

Holly Harper of Britannia Driving School said: “Nobody should drive whilst under the influence of drink or drugs especially somebody who has most likely witnessed the danger this can cause. He was supposed to be attending a call in order to help a member of the public but instead caused chaos on the way.”

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May 20, 2011
LAMPARD SCORES WITH A REDUCED DRIVING BAN

Frank Lampard was given a 90-day driving ban, a fine of £850 and costs exceeding £2000 when he was caught speeding at 91mph in a 50mph speed limit area on the A3 in Surrey.

When sentencing for speeding offences under 85mph, courts have guidelines to follow however, for speeds over 85mph the fine to be given is ambiguous.

For drivers caught speeding at 85mph the courts would normally issue a 65 day ban.

Initially Lampard was given 90 days, which he went on to appeal on the 55th day of his driving ban. The Judge has since allowed the ban to be reduced to just 60 days.

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May 19, 2011
A driver banned for life (and 99 years)!

A sheriff has banned a driver for life – to add to the 99 years of disqualifications he already has.

Sheriff Lindsay Foulis also jailed Andrew Winsborough for 10 months and complained he could not send him to prison for longer.

The 42-year-old, from Kelty in Fife, admitted driving while disqualified and without insurance on the A822 Dunkeld to Amulree road on 12 May.

He has not been able to drive legally since 1989, Perth Sheriff Court heard.

Sheriff Foulis said limiting the maximum jail term for a banned driving offence to 12 months was “wholly inadequate”.

‘Inevitable’ conviction

He told Winsborough: “You can count yourself lucky that the appropriate government hasn’t seen fit to increase the maximum sentence for driving while disqualified.

“With your record, the maximum sentence of 12 months seems wholly inadequate. You have 15 convictions now for driving while disqualified. You have not been able to drive legally since 1989.”

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He is now coming up for 43 and has been disqualified since just before his 21st birthday. He has not been able to legally drive for 22 years”

Sheriff Lindsay Foulis

Winsborough appeared from custody and pled guilty at the first opportunity. The sheriff told him that would normally merit a three-month discount from the maximum sentence.

However, he knocked just two months off and told the accused that the circumstances of the offence meant that his conviction would have been inevitable even if he had gone to trial.

The court was told that Winsborough had been caught driving home from work in a friend’s car last week.

Solicitor Louisa Wade, defending, said her client had been working on a site near Aberfeldy and was asked to stay late at work three weeks into his new job.

She said he was afraid to tell his “strict” bosses about his existing driving bans, so he decided to take the risk to drive 60 miles home in his friend’s car which he had access to.

Ms Wade asked the court to limit the ban on Winsborough as an “incentive” for him to behave in future, but was told by Sheriff Foulis her client was in “no position to lay down conditions”.

The sheriff said: “He is now coming up for 43 and has been disqualified since just before his 21st birthday. He has not been able to legally drive for 22 years.

“On 14 previous occasions he hasn’t complied with that. We are talking about someone driving 60-plus miles from Aberfeldy to Kelty.

“That is not a particularly safe option for other road users. Wake up and smell the coffee, Mr Winsborough.”

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May 18, 2011
CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG SET TO FLY AWAY WITH $2.5 MILLION

The Disney film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang released in 1968, captivated children and adults alike with the iconic car which sprouts wings and a propeller and begins to fly.

The vintage car which is thought to be in good working order and has a three-litre V-6 engine is being auctioned in California this weekend.

The car is thought to fetch more than $2.5 million. This may seem expensive but for a car that evokes fantasy and dreams the lucky buyer should be pleased with their purchase.

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