Careless driving fine branded ‘ridiculous’ after cyclist injured

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A cycling charity has slammed magistrates after a motorist caused a crash which left a cyclist with a broken leg, fractured elbow and soft tissue damage and was fined just £55.

Thomas McAteer, 49, of Maple Grove, Grimsargh, near Preston, admitted a charge of careless driving at Preston Magistrates’ Court.

The accident happened in D’Urton Lane, Preston, at around 1.35pm on Wednesday, November 14, last year.

McAteer was driving a Vauxhall Combo van when he approached the junction with Haighton Green Lane.

The court heard he intended to turn left, but failed to give way and pulled out, colliding with a cyclist who was travelling ahead on the road.

Prosecutors said: “The cyclist was knocked off his bike and sustained a broken femur, a fractured elbow and soft tissue damage to his back.

“He also spent a number of weeks in hospital due to the seriousness of his injuries.”

The van and the bike were both damaged in the crash.

The road was dry and the weather described as “fine”.

Magistrates ordered McAteer to pay a £55 fine, £43 court costs and a victim surcharge of £20. They also handed him three penalty points.

Rhia Weston, from the cycling charity CTC, branded the decision “ridiculous” and said the cyclist could pursue compensation in a civil case.

She said: “Unfortunately I’m not surprised. This is extremely common and one of the reasons why we set up our Road Justice Campaign.

“Why was the guy charged with careless driving? It should be dangerous driving.

“He is putting another person’s life in danger.”

The average fine for careless driving in 2011 was £138. The maximum punishment magistrates can give is a £5,000 fine and nine penalty points.

She said: “When you compare what he got to what he could have got, it’s absolutely absurd. £55 is laughable. It is ridiculous for the amount of damage he has caused.”

The CTC’s Road Justice Campaign aims to challenge the police, the prosecution services and the judiciary over the way they treat such cases.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Careless and dangerous driving can destroy lives and have a devastating effect on victims and their family and friends. That is why we have introduced an additional offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, with a maximum penalty of five years.

“Within the limits set by Parliament, it is for independent judges to decide on the appropriate sentence for an offender - in doing so they will take into account all details of the offence including any aggravating or mitigating circumstances and sentencing guidelines.”