90-Year-Old Escapes Jail Over Crash
A 90-year-old retired doctor with failing eyesight and confusion who ploughed into a car head-on and killed a man while driving on the wrong side of a dual carriageway has been given a nine-month suspended sentence.
Dr Turner Waddell took a wrong turn on the A30 in the dark between Hook and Basingstoke in Hampshire and ended up travelling south on the northbound carriageway.
Terrified drivers told police they flashed their lights and hit their horns to try and warn Waddell as he drove his Volvo at 60mph in the wrong fast lane on March 11 last year.
After about a mile, Waddell smashed into Neil Colquhoun's Vauxhall Vectra as he drove from his work as a temp back home to Hook along the A30.
Winchester Crown Court was told Mr Colquhoun had just overtaken a car in the fast lane along with another car in front of him and that vehicle had just got back into the slow lane when Waddell's Volvo came around a bend and the collision occurred.
Mr Colquhoun's car then hit another car and burst into flames. He was killed by the collision and not the flames, the court heard.
Waddell and his wife, who were on their way to the theatre in Basingstoke from their then home in Andover Down, Hampshire, were also seriously injured and were dragged from their smoking car by other motorists, who bravely ignored the risks.
Neil Sawyer, prosecuting, said: ''It's not clear how the defendant came to be on the wrong side of the road as his recollection of what happened is hazy.''
The barrister explained the best guess was that the doctor had turned the wrong way at what is known locally as the Red Lion Pub junction onto the A30 where the road markings although ''adequate, could have been better''.
Even so the court heard that Waddell, now living in Porthcawl, near Bridgend, ignored no entry signs and road markings and the flashing lights of other motorists and drove for more than a minute on the wrong side of the road.
The markings have now been improved, the court was told.
Waddell, who had a clean driving licence, had also suffered a subdural haematoma he was unaware of before the accident and had been confused prior to the crash.
The prosecution accepted this could have affected his judgment on whether he should drive.
He had also been seen a doctor the day before and failed an eye test, but the doctor did not tell him not to drive because he assumed he was not, the court was told.
He pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving at an earlier hearing.
In mitigation Charles Gabb said: ''For a man who has dedicated his life to saving the lives of others, to be instrumental in the taking of one is a shattering blow for him.''
He explained that on at least six other occasions motorists had been confused by the road markings at the junction and had gone the wrong way - including in daylight - and that it was luck no-one else had been injured.
''At first blush you think this is a case of an old man not paying attention but there is a fundamental problem here,'' he told the court.
He said Waddell had now moved to Wales to be near his wife, who has dementia and he visits her everyday.
Mr Gabb said Waddell, who had to be helped into the dock by his granddaughter and was using a zimmer frame, had found it difficult to come to terms with what he had done.
''Having spent all his life in the service of others, the last thing he wanted to do was a result such as this.''
Judge Keith Cutler suspended the sentence for two years and disqualified Waddell from driving for life.
He said that Waddell's eyesight was very worrying and added that if there was a message to come out the tragedy it was that doctors and relatives ''look very, very carefully whether elderly people can drive.''
Speaking outside court, Mr Colquhoun's mother Patricia said that the doctor should not have been behind the wheel.
''When a driver reaches 70 all that he or she has to do is complete a form to say that they are medically fit and a driving licence is issued for another three years,'' she said.
''Though I acknowledge that there are many safe elderly drivers on our roads there are some who are not, and families are sometimes too afraid to confront their elderly relatives as to their failing abilities.''
''Through this lack of foresight my son, who had a wealth of friends and family who loved him dearly, and who had just started a new job with such high hopes and plans for the future, has been so cruelly robbed.''