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19 December 2016, 16:03 | Updated: 19 December 2016, 16:10
A coach driver has sentenced to seven years imprisonment after causing the deaths of three people in a ‘devastating and avoidable’ collision on the hard shoulder of the M1.
Alan Peters, now 78, from Ambleside Valley Drive, Gravesend, was sentenced (today) Monday at Luton Crown Court to seven years in jail and disqualified from driving for five years, after being found guilty of three counts of causing death by dangerous driving and one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
Allan Evans, 59, from Islington, London, Tom Aldridge, 20, and Nathan Reeves, 23, both from Newport Pagnell, tragically died when the coach being driven by Peters collided with their car, which was stationary on the hard shoulder between junctions 12 and 13 of the M1.
A fourth man, Jake Dorling, suffered serious injuries in the collision including a fractured skull and a punctured lung.
Jake, Tom, and Nathan were being given a lift back to Buckinghamshire by Allan following a night out in London when the fatal incident happened.
During the trial the jury heard how Peters failed to see signs saying that the hard shoulder was not to be used except for in emergencies and travelled along it for almost three minutes before colliding with the car – which had its hazard warning lights activated.
The four had pulled over on the hard shoulder of the motorway after the oil light lit up on the dashboard. The driver had just finished topping up the oil and was preparing to set off again when the collision occurred.
FAMILIES SPEAK ABOUT THE TRAGIC INCIDENT
PC David Clarke, of the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Hertfordshire Forensic Collisions Investigation Unit, said: “I’m pleased that justice has finally been done for the four families involved in this devastating incident in February last year. Peters’ lack of attentiveness on that fatal morning has forever changed the lives of four families and he will have to live with that for the rest of his life. I would like to urge every driver to use this sentence as a stark reminder that dangerous driving is not acceptable and will be punished. Please take a moment to learn the rules regarding managed motorways and to ensure that you know what the signs mean in relation to using the hard shoulder. Just a few minutes familiarising yourself with this vital information could help prevent further tragic incidents such as this.”
STATEMENT FROM THE CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE
Charles White, Senior Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: “This case involved a terrible incident, which led to the untimely deaths of three men and the serious injury of another on the M1 near Flitwick, Bedfordshire last February. This is a tragic waste of these lives and could have been avoided.
“At about 6.40am on Saturday, 14 February 2015, Alan Peters, was driving a double decker Volvo coach, of 62 passengers, northbound along the M1 between junctions 12 and 13 when, at approximately 61mph, he ploughed into the back an Audi, which was stationary on the hard shoulder with its hazard warning lights on, causing catastrophe, destruction and devastation. The oil light of the Audi had suddenly illuminated, so the driver had pulled over to top up the oil and was about to re-join the motorway when the collision occurred. Allan Evans, aged 59, from Islington, London and Nathan Reeves, aged 23, and Thomas Aldridge, aged 20, both from Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, who were all in the Audi, died at the scene. Jake Dorling, aged 23, from Milton Keynes, who was the front seat passenger in the Audi, suffered a fractured skull, fractured hips, four fractured ribs and a punctured lung.
“Peters was driving on the hard shoulder for almost 3-minutes prior to the collision in contravention of signs denoting that the hard shoulder was designated for emergency use only. The Audi was clearly visible to Peters for 1500 metres and almost a minute prior to impact, uninterrupted by any intervening vehicles, but he was oblivious to the approaching danger. Only 0.4 seconds before impact did he apply his brakes, but it was too late for him to take any avoiding action.
“Peters claimed that he thought the hard shoulder was open to all traffic and could not account for why he had not reacted to the stationary Audi, except to intimate that another vehicle may have been ahead of him, which may have obscured his view, but CCTV disproved this.
“This case highlights the serious consequences of failing to be alert and prepared for unexpected or challenging driving conditions. Holding a driving licence brings with it a high degree of responsibility that should always be at the forefront of every driver’s mind.
“I hope that the conviction and today’s sentence will in some way help the family and friends of the victims come to terms with this tragic event. I also hope that Jake continues with his recovery. My thoughts are very much with them all at this time.”
STATEMENT FROM THE FAMILIES
On the 14 February 2015, our lives were changed forever.
The loss of Tom, Nathan and Alan, due to the actions of Mr Peters, has dealt a devastating blow to our families, a blow from which we will never fully recover.
Throughout the trial we have really come together as a group to support each other and that has been invaluable in helping us to get through this awful process.
Nothing can ever make up for the heartache caused by events on that day, but we hope that this incident will act as a reminder to all other drivers to pay attention to the road at all time.
Tom, Nathan, and Allan’s deaths were entirely avoidable and no-one else should ever have to suffer in this way due to a lack of attention on the road.