Blind pensioner jailed for causing fatal crash

April 13, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A pensioner  became the first person in Britain to be jailed for causing a fatal crash while driving with the eye disease Macular Degeneration. Trevor Knowles, 66, developing the age-related condition in both eyes but continued driving despite being left ”virtually blind”.

He killed great-grandfather William Florence, 78, in December 2008 because he failed to see him crossing the road and ploughed into him without braking. Tests revealed that Knowles’ vision was so poor he could barely see a few inches in front of him.

When he was arrested several weeks after the crash his windscreen was still shattered because he was so short-sighted he had failed to notice.

The retired businessman was jailed for 16 months at Warwick Crown Court after he pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving.

Judge Christopher Hodson told him: ”The evidence suggests that any action on your part such as braking or making to the right would have avoided the collision.

”But you simply did not see the man. He has started to cross the road before your car collided with him.

”Without knowing more it might have been explained away simply by your ill attention.

”But the probation had become involved for another offence and you told them that you were suffering from an eye condition.

”Because in my judgement your deficient eye sight contributed to the accident and your failure to see the road this case falls in the higher categories for sentencing.

”The aggravating feature of this is that you knew that you had poor eyesight but continued driving. You even drove through a red light.”

The court heard how married Knowles was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration in February 2007 and referred to an eye specialist at University Hospital Birmingham.

It is legal to drive with Macular Degeneration and sufferers do not have to inform the DVLA.

But the law states that drivers must be able to see a car number plate from a distance of 20.5m (67ft).

Tests revealed Knowles vision was so poor he could not see more than a few inches in front of him and could not even read or write even when he wore glasses.

The vision in his right eye was 6/60 which meant he had to be six metres from an object to see it compared to 60 metres for a normally sighted person.

He had 6/18 vision in his left eye which was three times as bad as a healthy person.

Despite his failing eyesight, he continued driving his Renault Megane to visit his estranged wife Amanda, 50, near their house in Solihull, West Mids.

But the stepfather-of-two knocked down retired telesales manager Mr Florence at 30mph as he stepped out of a central island on a single carriage way road in Solihull, West Mids., on December 4, 2008.

Crash investigators found that there was a 130m (426ft) range of vision before the collision and that Knowles failed to even brake or swerve out of the way.

Michael Garret, prosecuting, said: ”It appeared to the witnesses that the driver had simply failed to notice Mr Florence crossing the carriageway.

”Mr Knowles had admitted that he never saw Mr Florence in the road at all.

”The first time he was aware of his presence was when he described hearing a bang and somebody hitting the windscreen.

”The victim was clearly walking very slowly, a shuffle as witnesses described.

”But the fact is that Mr Knowles did not slow at all and did not change his course at all.”

Police charged Knowles with causing death by careless driving but he continued driving afterwards and pulled over 28 days after the accident on December 30 because he was still driving with a smashed windscreen from the accident and under-inflated tyres.

Knowles continued driving and was caught a second time on April 17 last year when he jumped a red light at junction 3 of the A453.

Mr Florence’s widow, Mavis, 78, and his two children Sue Lawson and Paul Florence, were at court for the sentencing.

Speaking after the case, retired secretary Mavis, said: ”What’s happened is a tragedy and nothing will bring William back but this has been the right verdict.

”Mr Knowles should have been told that he couldn’t drive.

”There must be thousands of people on the roads who know in their hearts that they are not in a fit state.

”Serious changes and consideration needs to be given to the way that people with medical conditions are regulated on the road.”

Speaking before the hearing, Knowles, who was a dog handler with the RAF police in the 60s, said: ”I broke down in tears at the roadside when I had the accident. I live with it every day.

”The guilt of knowing that I’ve killed somebody is unbearable.

”Everyday is like living in a prison. I’ve punished myself endlessly over what happened.

”I’d been driving for 40 years and was never told that I couldn’t drive when I first came down with this condition.

”I can barely see, I’m half blind but sometimes it’s OK if I’m driving because I can see long distances.”

Legal sources yesterday (Mon) confirmed Knowles was the first person in Britain to be jailed killing someone caused by Macular Degeneration.

The source said: ”As far as we can tell, no one has ever been sent to prison after they caused a crash brought on by this disease.”

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