Driver Distracted by Mobile Phone Liable for Horrific Freight Train Collision
Judges often have to steel themselves to make tough decisions. In one such case, the High Court reluctantly concluded that a motorist was distracted by her mobile phone and bore at least partial responsibility for a collision with a freight train in which a child suffered catastrophic injuries.
The motorist was travelling amidst wintry conditions at night when a risky overtaking manoeuvre by an oncoming driver – who was never traced – caused a clash of wing mirrors in front of her so that debris scattered onto the road. She reacted by driving across the opposite carriageway, through a gap in a line of traffic, onward through a fence and finally onto a railway line where her car collided with the train.
The child, who was in the back of her car, was gravely injured and a compensation claim against the motorist was launched on his behalf. The motorist denied that she was negligent, asserting that she was faced with a sudden emergency in the road ahead of her and had acted in the agony of the moment.
However, without any enthusiasm, the Court ruled that the accident was, at least in part, her fault. It found that she was not paying adequate attention to the road ahead of her in the moments prior to the incident. In crossing over the opposite carriageway, she made a deliberate but disastrously wrong decision.
The Court concluded that the likeliest explanation for her distraction was that, at the critical moment, she was using or about to use her mobile phone. A reasonably careful driver would and should have seen and reacted to the events unfolding before her in such a way as to avoid any collision or loss of control. If not agreed, the amount of the child's compensation would be assessed at a further hearing.