In the Media

Driver fined ?180 over crash that killed cyclists

PUBLISHED August 4, 2006

The driver in a crash that killed four cyclists when his car spun out of control was yesterday fined ?180 and given six penalty points on his licence.

Robert Harris, 47, was driving on the A547 near Abergele, north Wales, in January when his Toyota Corolla skidded on black ice and collided with riders from Rhyl Cycling Club who were out on an early morning training exercise. The car hit the riders with such force that two of them were thrown over a wall into a field.

Those killed were Maurice Broadbent, the club's chairman; Dave Horrocks, 49; Wayne Wilkes, 42; and 14-year-old Thomas Harland. The teenager's father, Jon, also part of the group of 12, suffered a broken leg and saw his son die.

Yesterday Llandudno magistrates gave Harris the fine and penalty points on his licence for driving with defective tyres.

The road safety charity Brake criticised the leniency of the sentence. Mary Williams, its chief executive, said: "Four innocent cyclists were killed and their families' lives were devastated. It is an outrage that Robert Harris has not even lost his licence yet four people have lost their lives. He made irresponsible decisions to drive in hazardous conditions and not to check the state of his tyres."

Harris, a security guard, pleaded guilty to three counts of driving with defective tyres. He was not at yesterday's hearing.

Diane Williams, prosecuting, told the court that a police investigation found that the defective tyres - the front pair and rear nearside - were not to blame for the accident. "Tyre tread is there to displace liquid debris from the road to give a better grip. The examination has found there was no liquid there - it was black ice," she said.

The remaining seven riders, three of them teenagers, suffered minor injuries and severe shock. They, along with Mr Harland, were taken to hospital for treatment. Roger Geffen of CTC, the UK's national cycling association, said: "The unstated message is that killing or maiming people on the road is an accident or just one of those things, which is galling for those who are bereaved or injured.

"Drivers have a duty of care towards other road users. The culture of road traffic law and enforcement contains an implicit bias that if you endanger people's lives - by killing or maiming - you deserve sympathy for being on the wrong side of a tragic accident.

"What would really make a difference is a revision of road traffic law where the penalties are much steeper, whether or not you endanger life." There were 440 bicycle riders killed or seriously injured in January-March this year, a 20% increase on the same period last year, according to figures published yesterday by the Department for Transport.