Victoria Seager, a nurse from Hampshire who suffered brain damage after a white transit van drove into her stationary vehicle, has said that legislation around road traffic collision needs to be completely rethought.
The call comes after the driver of the van, Mark Barker, pleaded guilty to careless driving, at a trial today at Staines Magistrates Court. He was sentenced to 30 weeks in prison, reduced to 26 weeks which was then suspended for two years. He was also disqualified from driving for 36 months and ordered to pay £680 in fines.
The crash took place on the smart motorway stretch of the M3, Junction 3 Northbound, at 6.45am 6.15pm on Monday 18th January 2021 when the van collided with the rear of Victoria’s vehicle. She had pulled over onto the nearside lane of the slip road leading onto the smart motorway after her wing mirror was clipped by a HGV. The impact from the collision forced her car under the stationary HGV, which had also pulled over.
Mr. Barker fled the scene, leaving Victoria with life-threatening injuries, and was later found hiding in a nearby field by a Surrey police dog.
Victoria sustained a serious brain injury, broken ribs, punctured lungs and a broken jaw and was in a coma for three weeks. She was only able to return home from hospital in May 2021 following months of intensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. Victoria must now have a multi-disciplinary team of therapists supporting her as she continues her rehabilitation journey outside of hospital.
Victoria, a registered nurse associate at a GP practice in Bracknell, said: “My life will never be the same – I have memory problems and serious anxiety, and one of the saddest things for me is that I can‘t currently do my job as a nurse which I love. The hardest part was having to live in a hospital at the height of the pandemic, when my family couldn’t come and see me to support me through my rehab.
“I am pleased that Mr Barker admitted guilt and hope that he will learn a lesson from today. But how can it be right that someone who caused this level of pain can only be prosecuted for careless, not causing serious injury, particularly when it’s clear they had been drinking? I think the law needs a complete rethink so that drivers are reminded they can still cause unimaginable damage to a person when driving a vehicle and there should be an offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.”
Matthew Claxson, a partner in the Serious Injury Team at law firm Moore Barlow, who represents Victoria, said: “This horrific crash is another reminder that when using our motorways drivers should not only be aware of their speed but pay particular attention to what is happening on the road ahead of them – even more so on smart motorways that do not have the traditional hard shoulder. It is also a reminder that there are serious blind spots in the laws around operating a vehicle – police weren’t able to charge Mr Barker for causing serious injury by careless driving because, put simply, the offence does not yet exist in the statute books having been delayed in Parliament.
“I’m consistently amazed by the strength shown by Victoria, and her husband Terry, as they cope with this ordeal. Their hope, and mine, is that their story can be a lesson for other drivers and remind them of the absolute duty of care they owe to all around them when behind the wheel.”
Mr Barker pleaded guilty to three separate charges of which run concurrently:
• Failure to provide a specimen for which he received 18 weeks custody, reduced to 16 weeks for the guilty plea and suspended for 2 years. Plus 250 hours unpaid work.
• Failure to stop for which he was given 12 weeks custody, reduced to 10 weeks custody and suspended for 2 years. Plus 250 hours unpaid work.
• Careless driving £180 fine reduced to £162 for the guilty plea. License endorsed.
• Disqualified from driving for a period of 36 months.
Bryn Madden, Citypress
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