Driver’s chocolate bar distraction caused death of Hassocks pensioner

Crime
Crime

A lorry driver has admitted causing the death of a pensioner after taking his eye off the road to get a bar of chocolate.

Ernest Humphrey, 79, of Mackie Avenue, Hassocks, died after the black Vauxhall Zafira he was travelling in was struck by the lorry of Andrew May on the A27 close to the Southwick Tunnel.

May, of Truro Avenue, Doncaster, pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving when he appeared at Chichester Crown Court. He was found not guilty of a separate charge of causing death by dangerous driving on Thursday 15 January.

The 45-year-old was driving the eastbound carriageway of the A27 shortly after 1pm on 25 July 2013 when he looked away from the road to reach for a bar of chocolate.

He looked up as his lorry struck the Vauxhall before crossing the central reservation and overturning, blocking the westbound carriageway. The eastbound carriageway also had to be closed while the injured men in the Vauxhall were rescued and the barrier was repaired.

The 49-year-old man driving the Vauxhall, from Hassocks, suffered head, leg and chest injuries and was taken to Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton for treatment.

Mr Humphrey, who was a passenger in the car and also from Hassocks, was flown to Southampton General Hospital but died of his injuries on 30 July.

May suffered minor injuries.

In court he was released on bail to appear at Chichester Crown Court for sentencing on 20 February. He has been given an interim driving ban.

Sergeant Neil Walker, of Sussex and Sussex roads policing unit, said: “Mr Humphrey lost his life because Andrew May was not concentrating properly while he was driving.

“May only took his eyes off the road for a matter of seconds but that was enough for him to cause the accident that killed his victim, left Mr Humphrey’s family traumatised and also blocked the A27.

“It shows just how vital it is to avoid distractions when you are behind the wheel. Eating, drinking, smoking or using a mobile phone while you are driving, even with a hands-free kit, can affect how well you are concentrating and how quickly you could react in an emergency.

“The roads are there so that we can get from A to B. We all have a responsibility to use them safely rather than taking risks that put ourselves and other people in danger.”

People in Sussex can text officers on 65999 with the details of people they see driving antisocially or report them at www.operationcrackdown.co.uk.

If you see someone driving dangerously call 999.