Case Study

The two cyclists killed in A30 Cornwall crash have been named (02/07/13)

Two cyclists have died following a collision involving a lorry near Newquay, Cornwall, police said.

The cyclists, who were from Scotland, were pronounced dead at the scene.

The incident happened about 08:30 BST on the A30 eastbound at Summercourt, approximately one mile before the Fraddon exit.

  • UPDATE (03/07/13)

The driver of the white Renault Frys Logistics lorry (the lorry was from Launceston, the driver from Holsworthy in Devon) involved in the crash was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. The 31-year-old man has been released on bail.

Police have confirmed that one of the cyclists killed in the collision was a 48-year-old man from Edinburgh.

The cyclists have been named as Andrew McMenigall and Toby Wallace. They were riding from lands End to John O’Groats to raise funds for the Kirsteen Scott Memorial Trust, set up in memory of one of their ex-colleagues at Aberdeen Asset Management, who died of cancer aged 25.

Their fundraising page can be seen here – http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiser…

  • UPDATE (14/05/14)

The lorry driver, Robert Wayne Palmer, has been charged with two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.

Palmer has also been charged with a further count of dangerous driving in relation to another crash on September 21, 2013, on the A30 near Okehampton.

He has been released on bail to appear at Bodmin Magistrates Court on June 3.

  • UPDATE (01/07/14)

The lorry driver, Robert Palmer, has pleaded guilty to both counts of causing death by dangerous driving on July 2nd last year.

He has also pleaded guilty to the other charge of dangerous driving relating to the incident on September 21st 2013.

He has been released on bail ahead of being sentenced.

The wives of the two cyclists have said that road traffic laws in the UK are too lenient making it difficult or impossible for the families of many road traffic collision victims to secure justice.

According to the Daily Mail, in a joint statement issued after Palmer had pleaded guilty the victims’ widows, Claire Wallace and Anne McMenigall, said: “There are no words to describe the devastation and loss that we, and both families, feel following the deaths of our husbands, they were exceptional and giant men in every sense of the word.

“It is a tragedy that so many other families are also mourning loved ones who have been killed on Britain’s roads, particularly when many of these deaths were completely avoidable.

“So many of these families do not ever see this charge brought against the person who has killed their husband, their child, their brother, their father.

“UK transport laws are lenient, charges are difficult and onerous to attain and less and less resource is being dedicated to road traffic collisions.

The statement concluded: “Toby and Andrew loved cycling, we believe that the rise in the popularity of the sport must be met by those with the responsibility to improve our transport infrastructure and improve education for drivers.”

  • UPDATE (01/09/14)

The lorry driver, Robert Palmer, has been jailed for eight and a half years.

Palmer was sentenced to seven and a half years for each count of causing death by dangerous driving, to be served concurrently. He was sentenced to a year for the dangerous driving offence that took place on the A30 in September 2013 whilst he was on bail as police investigated the cyclists’ deaths.

Judge Christopher Harvey Clark QC also banned Palmer from driving for 10 years and ordered him to pay a victim surcharge of £120, which the judge acknowledged was an absurdity in such a “tragic case”.

At the time of the crash Palmer – a night time delivery driver for Frys Logistics Ltd in Launceston – had little sleep because instead of resting during the day he was working on vehicle maintenance for the firm.

He was also habitually using his iPhone to send text messages while carrying out deliveries for discount store Lidl between Cornwall and Weston-super-Mare, the court heard.

Judge Clark QC said: “The evidence is at the time when this accident occurred you had almost certainly fallen asleep but it is equally clear you were disregarding the rules of the road by texting continuously and it would seem at length.

“You completely ignored their presence on the road. In the words of prosecutor Mr Lee you mowed them down.

“It is clear that at the time when this tragic accident occurred you were suffering from extreme fatigue and exhaustion.

“You should not have been driving at all at that time. You failed to ensure that you took sufficient rests. People should not drive when they are feeling very sleepy or as you were totally exhausted.

“All the indications are that long before the fatal collision you must or should have been aware of your condition.

“It is also clear – although I accept not a primary cause of the accident – you had been inappropriately and illegally using your mobile telephone.

“You were using it habitually. People who use a handheld mobile telephone and text while driving carry a terrible risk to other road users.

“The reason’s perfectly obvious – a driver’s attention to the road is disturbed by his or her texting.”

The court heard that the speed-limited lorry was travelling at 56mph (90km/h) in good visibility, that Palmer “should’ve been able to see” the two experienced cyclists, yet witnesses said the vehicle took no avoiding action.

Prosecutors said Palmer had not had enough rest periods between shifts at work and had falsified rest records.

The lorry driver had left Cornwall the previous evening to pick up goods for Lidl at its depot in Weston-super-Mare and had driven overnight to deliver them to Penzance and Hayle.

Between 5pm on June 30 and 6am on July 1 Palmer had sent over 150 text messages, the court head.

In one text exchange about his lack of sleep, Palmer said: “I’ve survived so far.”

On the morning of July 1, he texted: “Just leaving home, going back to yard.”

Later, he texted: “Worked till 3pm had about three hours’ kip. Now back on Lidl run.”

Mr Lee said: “Far from being home and sleeping, he was going back to work. This defendant was habitually working a day shift in the yard and night time driving shifts.

“He was failing to get enough sleep, of which he was well aware and he continued to do so even after the horrific events of July 2.

Other motorists had seen Mr McMenigall and Mr Wallace cycling along the road in single file wearing reflective clothing.

Drivers had also noticed Palmer’s erratic driving on the 50mph A30 and he weaved across the dual carriageway and ran over the rumble strips alongside the hard shoulder.

The prosecutor said that when the collision happened another motorist, who was behind Palmer, did not see him apply his brakes or take any evasive action.

Police investigations found that at the time of the crash Palmer was travelling at 56mph but had previously been doing 62mph in a 40mph zone.

“It is apparent he was habitually driving as fast as the vehicle’s speed limiter would allow him,” Prosecutor Philip Lee said.

The court was also told of another incident weeks later in the early hours of September 20 as Palmer returned from Weston-super-Mare.

As he drove up a steep hill on the A30 in Devon he ploughed into the back of lorry driver Brian Rabey’s vehicle.

Mr Rabey was lucky to escape with his life after his vehicle overturned, leaving him with minor injuries.

CTC's view: 

CTC is deeply saddened to hear of the deaths of two cyclists on the A30 in a crash with a lorry.

Cycling on rural A roads carries a risk of death per mile travelled 20 times higher than on urban minor roads, however, the A30 is the quickest and easiest route for those cycling from Land’s End to John o’Groats.

Too often we hear of terrible tragedies like this case occurring on Britain’s busiest roads. CTC has repeatedly called on the Highways Agency to improve conditions for cyclists on its network.

CTC is calling for interim driving bans to be imposed on drivers arrested following crashes which seriously injure or kill another person, so that drivers don’t present an ongoing threat to the public before they are formally charged.

Due to the lorry driver’s guilty plea he would have received a discount on his custodial sentence of up to a third. The full custodial sentence would have been 10 years, minus a third for the guilty plea = 7.5 years.

The driving ban imposed in this case is considerably longer than the majority of driving bans given for causing death and bodily harm offences, which tend to fall within the range of one to three years. Palmer will also have to sit an extended re-test before regaining his licence, as all drivers convicted of a dangerous driving offence must do.

CTC has long been calling for significant driving bans to be emphasised as appropriate penalties in sentencing guidelines.

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  • Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC): A company limited by guarantee, registered in England no.25185. Registered as a charity in England and Wales No 1147607 and in Scotland No SC042541
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