Case Study

Dazzled van driver cleared of causing trucker's death

Incident date: 
Tue, 10 Apr 2012

A van driver has been cleared of causing the death of a timber delivery man after telling a jury he was momentarily blinded by the early morning sun when he crashed.

Phillip White broke down with relief and collapsed into his chair in the dock as the jury at Exeter Crown Court cleared him of causing the death of lorry driver Nigel Gutteridge.

Mr Gutteridge’s family, who had packed the public gallery throughout the three day case, were also in tears as the verdict was announced and Mr White was discharged.

He was found not guilty after telling the court he was so dazzled by the sun that he never saw anything until the moment of impact.

He denied being ‘on automatic pilot’ and failing to take account of the weather conditions before the accident, which happened just yards from his front door in Tiverton.

Timber firm delivery driver Nigel Gutteridge, aged 61, of Thelbridge Cross, Witheridge, had just got out of his cab and was walking behind his truck when he was trapped by the impact with White’s Renault van.

White, aged 52, of Barle Court, was on his way to work and had turned out of his own road onto Lea Road just yards from the scene of the fatal accident in April 2012.

He denied causing Mr Gutteridge’s death by careless driving and was found not guilty after telling the jury he was blinded by the rising sun and driving at only 20 to 25 mph.

The prosecution said he should have slowed or stopped if he could not see and that his van was in fourth gear when it was examined at the scene.

Police accident investigator Pc Philip Rowan-Smith said he recreated the fatal journey the next day when weather conditions were identical and found he had to slow down to cope with the dazzling effect of the sun.

He said there were no tyre marks to suggest braking and other witnesses say White drove straight into the back of the lorry.

He said he had seen lorries pulled over in Lea Road before while their drivers went to nearby shops but said he had never come across one in the position where he collided with the timber truck.

Mr Richard Crabb, prosecuting, asked him: ”You were on automatic pilot, making a journey you have done many times before?”

He replied:”I don’t know. I’m sorry. I never saw the lorry until I hit it.”

Mr Gutteridge worked for the local firm Pennymoor Timber as a part time driver. He was a semi retired former director of a tool hire firm whose hobby was restoring vintage vehicles.

CTC's view: 

Yet another case of a driver failing to adjust their driving in response to weather conditions and causing a wholly avoidable death. Being dazzled by sunlight should not be a get out clause.

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