Van driver's momentary lapse of attention led to death of cyclist
A VAN driver's momentary lapse of attention at a "difficult" road junction cost the life of a university professor cycling close to him, a court was told.
Benjamin Stallard failed to see Dr Steven Morris when he joined the A370 by the Ashton Gate underpass, Bristol Crown Court heard.
Unbeknown to Stallard, his van clipped Dr Morris' handlebars, causing him to lose control and somersault over the handlebars on to the road. The 52-year-old father-of- three died 12 hours later, having suffered multiple head injuries – even though he was wearing a helmet.
Stallard, 25, of Westbury Road, Westbury-on-Trym, admitted causing death by careless driving in August last year.
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The Recorder of Bristol His Honour Judge Neil Ford QC imposed a two-year community order, involving 200 hours of unpaid work, and ordered Stallard to pay £350 costs.
He banned him from driving for two years and endorsed his driving licence.
The judge told him: "There is no evidence of excessive speed or of aggressive or impaired driving. You failed to notice a cyclist when emerging from a difficult junction.
"The case involves a vulnerable road user and motorists have an obligation to take particular care to look for cyclists and motorcyclists."
Simon Morgan, prosecuting, said Dr Morris, a professor at the University of Bristol, left home for work at 6.40am and cycled his normal route on the A370 towards the Cumberland Basin.
He described how a pathologist driving on the road at 7.15am saw Dr Morris wobble and fall and he stopped and attended to him.
Mr Morgan said: "He thought he had suffered a fractured skull. He said the defendant parked his vehicle, returned to the scene and said he had seen the cyclist somersault off his bike behind him."
The court heard Dr Morris was conveyed to hospital but was pronounced dead at 6.37pm, having suffered "unsurvivable" injuries for which surgery was discounted.
A police accident reconstruction concluded the van must have clipped the bicycle as it joined the A370. Stallard gave a negative breath test and the van was roadworthy.
Stallard told police he had held a driving licence for seven years and drove 15,000 to 20,000 miles a year.
He said before the crash he had been either driving or working for the past 13 hours, but he was not tired or distracted and had thought the road was clear. The court heard he had a conviction for speeding in 2006, and a conviction for driving while using a mobile phone in 2008.
Mr Morgan said Dr Morris left a wife of 24 years, a daughter in her 20s and twin boys aged 19, one of whom is disabled.
Jennifer Tallentire, defending, said Stallard was familiar with the junction and prosecution evidence suggested there would have been up to five seconds when he should have seen Dr Morris. She described how Stallard saw the cyclist fall in his mirror, stopped and went back to assist.
She said: "He is a hard-working, decent young man. He is not anything other than utterly remorseful and deeply distressed. He has lived with the consequences of the accident for a little over a year."