Lorry driver could have caused ‘catastrophe’ - Judge

A driver of a lorry which was “swerving all over” the M2 motorway near Antrim town during a Friday rush-hour was more than three times the drink limit and could have caused a “catastrophe” involving “multiple fatalities,” a judge said.

Zbigniew Wosciech Nowak (45), of Summerfield Street, Ballymena, admitted driving with excess alcohol in his breath in relation to 5.30pm on October 22 this year.

A prosecutor told Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena, two people contacted police saying the Mercedes lorry was “swerving all over the road” with the driver suspected of being drunk.

When police arrived behind the Mercedes lorry it was “straddling” the hard shoulder and the motorway and despite blue lights being used to get it stop it took “300 metres” to come to a halt. Officers noticed the defendant had heavy eyelids and slurred speech. When escorted from the passenger side of the vehicle the defendant fell at the bottom step and had to be assisted to a police car as he was so unsteady on his feet.

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The defendant had a reading of 109 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath - the legal limit is 35. The defendant was kept in police custody overnight and charged the following day.

The prosecutor said the defendant had lived in Northern Ireland for 15 years and been a lorry driver for eight years. He had no previous convictions.

Defence barrister Michael Smyth said the defendant lost his job as a result of the incident. He said the defendant had been working on the day in question. He had started at 8am and the detection was at 5.30pm. The lawyer said the defendant had “difficulties” in his personal life and was “under severe financial pressure”. Mr Smyth said: “He made the very foolish decision to purchase alcohol, initially not with the intention of drinking and driving but with the intention of consuming it when he got home from work. “But unfortunately the temptation proved too much to resist and what initially started as a sip or two turned into quite a substantial amount of consumption of alcohol”.

District Judge Nigel Broderick told the defendant: “This is a very serious incident, this could have been a total catastrophe”.

He added: “If you had crashed your vehicle, driving a lorry on the motorway, drunk, there could have been multiple fatalities. You placed your life and the lives of other motorists in jeopardy. You could have killed people.”

The judge said he had been considering custody but in light of the clear record and as a “direct alternative to imprisonment” he ordered the defendant to do 120 hours of Community Service.

The defendant was also banned from driving for 18 months when he will have to re-sit his driving test.