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A Driver Causes a Road Traffic Accident After Blacking Out at the Wheel: Are they Still Responsible?

In today’s news we read the harrowing tale of Sharon Corless, who was knocked off her bicycle and killed by Tracy Johnson in September 2008 in a bizarre road traffic accident.

Ms Johnson was driving her partner’s black Range Rover along a road in Macclesfield and was approaching a roundabout. Witnesses report seeing her car swerve between lanes, before mounting the kerb and ploughing into both 43 year old Mrs Corless and her husband Peter, 47, who ‘bounced’ off the bonnet.

The female driver of a red Peugeot remembers hearing an engine revving behind her, then seeing Ms Johnson’s 4×4 ‘flying’ through the air towards her as it mounted the crest of a hill over the bridge. The Range Rover then struck the Peugeot before colliding with a lamppost and spinning around. Tracey Cartledge, the driver of the Peugeot, said that Ms Johnson was ‘hysterical’ after she got out of her car following the crash, and repeatedly asked what had happened.

In January this year, Ms Johnson was acquitted of causing death by dangerous driving after medical experts said they could not disregard the possibility that she had fainted at the wheel. Earlier, Ms Johnson’s defence team had argued that a blackout had caused her to lose control of the vehicle, something that was backed up by witnesses who said that the Range Rover’s brake lights did not come on once during the series of events.

This was dismissed after doctors said there was no medical reason why this would have happened, and Ms Johnson herself did not remember feeling unwell or dizzy in the moments immediately before the crash. However, medical experts said they could not say that she had not fainted in the car. In interviews, she claimed that she thought she had blacked out, and remembers nothing of her role in the collision, a testimony to which she has stuck.

Investigators found that the Range Rover had both a worn tyre and a faulty brake light, but neither of these factors were deemed to have caused the road traffic. Ms Johnson herself says, ‘I didn’t know my involvement. It was only when I got to the middle of the road and looked back at my car and it was in pieces and I was like ‘oh my god, I’m in this accident. I don’t understand.

“I just, I swear to each and every one of you, I swear to you, to her husband and her children, to everybody that loves her, I swear to you from the bottom of my heart, on my son’s life, I was not in that car, I swear to you. I don’t remember anything. You can come to my house any day you want, I will tell you the truth, I am not lying to you, I swear to you. “I am so sorry, from the bottom of my heart, I’m so sorry. I wish I could tell you more. I’m so sorry, I’m not lying to you. I wanted to tell you that, to explain. I was not conscious, I didn’t see them.”

This tragic case raises a question of accountability: if Ms Johnson was genuinely not in control of her actions, as it seems, then what can Mrs Corless’ bereaved family do? It is unfair to prosecute a motorist who has caused a crash whilst being, in her words, ‘not in the car,’ much as with a driver who dies at the wheel and causes further injuries or death? This could well be one of those cases that is genuinely just a tragic accident, although the question remains if Mrs Corless’ family could pursue a claim for compensation.

Source: The Telegraph