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Killer HGV driver pleads guilty to causing death by dangerous driving

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Lorry driver Joao Lopes hit and killed Eilidh Cairns in 2009 but was only ever fined for poor eyesight. Last year he ran over and killed 97-year-old Nora Gutmann in 2011. He has now pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and tachograph offences.
Lorries are disproportionately involved in pedestrian and cyclists' deaths
Lorries are disproportionately involved in pedestrian and cyclists' deaths

Kate Cairns, who fought for a proper investigation into her sister's death to stop other fatalities happening in the same way - and who went on to campaign for better lorry safety in Europe -  said: 

"For three years I have battled the whole way through an inadequate system which assumes the guilt of the cyclist, and which is rife with incompetence and complacency and which has failed us all on so many levels.

 

"There was no interest in carrying out a proper investigation nor in finding witnesses. The police report was riddled with assumptions, omissions and conclusions contrary to evidence, obvious even to a layperson but there was no interest from the Crown Prosecution Service in questioning it.

 

"Only after the death of someone else, three years later, have the police acknowledged the report was inadequate and reviewed the case of Eilidh’s death. 

 

"Then there is an absolute failure of the coronial process to be meaningful in anyway when the coroner refuses to put her mind to ways to avoid similar deaths."

 

Nora Gutman did not have to die, Lopes did not have to lose his freedom, if the professionals had done their jobs."

Kate Cairns

Lorry driver Joao Lopes ran over and killed Eilidh Cairns as she rode ahead of him on her daily 10 mile commute through Notting Hill Gate in London. The police failed to check his eyesight and only did so at the Cairns family's request three months after the crash. His eyesight was so bad that it did not meet the standard to drive a car, let alone an HGV. The penalty he received was derisory.

 

This case not only highlights inadequacies in police procedure and the legal system in cases of dangerous driving, and the hazards that lorries pose to cyclists, but also the need for the Government to support a move to more frequent and proper eyesight testing for all drivers.

 

CTC's Stop Smidsy campaign mainly tracks cases of 'inattentional blindness' - the failure to observe hazards because of sensory overload - but drivers whose eyesight is below the legal standard shouldn't be allowed behind the wheel of a motor vehicle at all.

 

  • Drivers' vision is more fully discussed in the latest CycleDigest (page 6)
  • See also our campaigns briefing on Cyclists and Goods Vehicles for more on what needs to be done to tackle the hazards that lorries pose to cyclists.
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