A truck driver’s decision to pass a cyclist on a bad stretch of road, at a time when he knew his lorry was in bad condition, beggared belief, a judge said yesterday.
The driver was jailed for three years for the incident which put the victim, a keen triathlete, in a wheelchair for life.
The truck’s 70 defects had been reported to the owner two months before the incident but had not been fixed.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said some of the defects contributed to the incident and had to be seen as an aggravating factor.
Tim Walsh, from Moneen, Glanworth, Co Cork, was banned from driving for 15 years and sentenced to four years in jail, with the last year suspended, for dangerous driving causing serious injury to Vincent O’Driscoll, 31, on the main Cork-Macroom road on August 7 last year.
Garda Patrick O’Leary stated at Cork Circuit Criminal Court that Walsh’s truck had undergone an inspection two months prior to the incident and 70 defects had been identified. These included problems in the braking system, the lighting system, and mirrors, including a cracked near-side mirror. Walsh, who owned the truck, did nothing to remedy them, Garda O’Leary said.
He said Mr O’Driscoll had been cycling on the N22, over 3km east of Macroom, when he was knocked off his bike by the truck as it overtook him on a hill.
Walsh was driving a truck and trailer carrying 42 tonnes of lumber. Witnesses said the rear wheels of the trailer rolled over Mr O’Driscoll after he was knocked off his bike.
The victim was rushed to Cork University Hospital and, initially, was not expected to survive. He is now paralysed and uses a wheelchair.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said: “Vincent O’Driscoll received what can only be described as devastating injuries in this collision which have had a huge effect on his life.
“This truck should never have been on the road on this occasion. Some of those defects, including the broken mirror, had an impact on causing the accident. The broken mirror did not give him a particular view of what was going on behind him, where the rear wheel collided with the cyclist.
“Attempting to overtake the cyclist — on that stretch of road — was criminal in itself. To do it was a criminally negligent manoeuvre. To do it in this kind of truck with these defects beggars belief.”
In a victim impact statement, Mr O’Driscoll said that “accidents like mine could easily be avoided with a bit of patience on the part of drivers”.
“I think my accident specifically could have been avoided — I think the truck driver was reckless in relation to my safety. He didn’t give me a chance. He showed no understanding of road safety, for cyclists in particular. There isn’t much room for manoeuvre at the spot where he tried to overtake me, yet he still tried to overtake.
“His split-second decision to overtake me on that stretch of road has had a devastating effect on every aspect of my life.”
Afterwards, Mr O’Driscoll said: “The judge was trying to be as fair as he could but, at the end of the day, he’ll do his three years in prison but I’m still in the wheelchair.
“I came across people in the National Rehabilitation Hospital who were in similar places to me when they were hit — when trucks just tried to overtake them and engaged in manoeuvres that they shouldn’t be doing.
“I’m lucky to be alive — some people this year haven’t been that fortunate,” he added.
Ray Boland, defending, said Walsh had been going through a difficult period in his life due to the suicide of a relative.
He said Walsh knew his life as a haulier was over as a result of his driving on the day.
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