Motorist (77) who almost crashed into group of cyclists 'could only read a number plate from a metre-and-a-half'

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A 77-year-old motorist who almost smashed into a group of cyclists before swerving and colliding with a van, afterwards had his eyesight tested by police and he was unable to read a number plate until he got within a metre-and-a-half, a court was told.

Richard Verdun Price-Stephens, of Marine Road in Carnlough, admitted charges of dangerous driving and absence of a driving licence for a Berlingo van following an incident at the Lisnevenagh Road dual-carriageway between Ballymena and Antrim town on Sunday March 3 this year.

A prosecutor told Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena, police were called to a road traffic collision involving a Berlingo van and a Peugeot Partner van.

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Both vehicles were on the central divide and there was "considerable damage" to the off side of the Berlingo which had been driven by the defendant. The near side of the Partner van had damage.

The case was heard at Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena. Picture by: Pacemaker.The case was heard at Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena. Picture by: Pacemaker.
The case was heard at Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena. Picture by: Pacemaker.

The prosecutor said the Partner driver said he was in lane two and the defendant's vehicle was in lane one "with a number of cyclists in front of that vehicle".

The driver, the prosecutor outlined, said the defendant "moved across" from lane one to lane two "without any warning, colliding with the front near side of his vehicle".

The prosecutor added: "The witness described the defendant driving amongst the cyclists and noted one cyclist put his hand on the bonnet of the defendant's vehicle."

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The court heard a cyclist said they were cycling at "approximately 30mph when the defendant drove so close to him that he had to jump his bicycle onto the pavement to avoid being hit by the defendant."

The prosecutor added: "At that point he heard a collision and observed the defendant's vehicle had moved from the inside lane to the outside lane colliding with the injured party's vehicle."

The prosecutor said police then carried out a "road side eyesight" test on the defendant. He was required to read a vehicle registration mark of a police vehicle from a distance of twenty metres but he was unable to so "until he was at a distance of 1.4 metres," the prosecutor said.

The court heard the defendant's driving licence had expired in 2021 and had not been renewed.

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When interviewed the defendant admitting causing the collision, the court was told, and said his optician had advised him he "should wear his glasses when he was driving but on the day he wasn't wearing them."

The court heard the defendant is no longer driving and the matter has been reported to the Driver & Vehicle Agency "and should the defendant choose to reapply for a licence the matter would further be investigated".

A defence solicitor said the defendant assured him that since the incident he had not driven and "the time has now come to hang his keys up" and the vehicle had been "disposed off".

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The lawyer said the defendant "was unaware his eyesight had deteriorated to such an extent and the only reason why he was driving on this occasion was his partner had been taken urgently into the Royal Victoria Hospital."

The solicitor continued: "On the dual carriageway he was confronted by the cyclists who were in front of him, who were obviously legitimately on the road, but he then came upon them quicker than he anticipated, then made his manoeuvre to overtake."

The lawyer said the defendant believed the other vehicle was "further back which turns out not to be the case". He said the defendant was "fully insured" and "he apologises to all parties concerned, motorists and cyclists alike".

At the age of 77 the pensioner, who had been driving since the age of 17, "realises now his driving days are finished," the lawyer added.

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District Judge Oonagh Mullan said: "This was an incident that could have had a lot more serious consequences."

The defendant, who was in court, was banned from driving for two years and was fined £350.

The judge told him he will have to re-sit his driving test if he is contemplating getting back on the roads.