Elderly Peterborough driver who struck and killed 99-year-old due to poor eye sight given suspended sentence
An elderly driver who struck and killed a 99-year-old woman after failing to see her due to a degenerative eye condition has been given a suspended sentence
John Biggs, 83, of Sages Lane, Peterborough, was driving a Skoda Yeti on the afternoon of 15 May last year.
He was travelling along David’s Lane, Werrington, when he hit Lillian Clark, of Sunnymead, Werrington, who was crossing the road at a recognised crossing point with the aid of her walking frame.
Mrs Clark died at the scene from multiple injuries.
At the time Mrs Clark’s family paid tribute to her, describing her as a “much loved auntie”.
Biggs made no attempt to slow or avoid Mrs Clark before the collision. He did stop at the scene but stayed inside his car and police were called by a member of the public.
An officer from the Beds, Cambs and Herts (BCH) Roads Policing Unit conducted a roadside eye sight with Biggs, which he failed as he was unable to read a number plate further than seven metres away – the legal requirement being 20 metres.
Biggs told officers he had age-related Macular Degeneration – an eye disorder – which he had notified the DVLA of in 2014.
After further enquiries and eye tests, the DVLA allowed Biggs to keep his driving licence.
Since then Biggs had been treated at Peterborough City Hospital (PCH) for his condition, which affects both eyes. In his last hospital appointment in November 2018 and a separate optician appointment on 13 December the same year, Biggs was told to self-check that he could read a number plate from 20metres away.
A forensic collision investigator who attended the scene concluded the most likely cause of Biggs’s failure to see and react to Mrs Clark in the road ahead of him was because he could not see sufficiently far ahead of his vehicle due to his pre-existing eye condition.
In police interview, Biggs said he “should have seen” Mrs Clark but didn’t until he had hit her. He claimed he didn’t believe this was due to his degenerative eye condition and must have been distracted instead.
However, he couldn’t provide any reason for being distracted and said he didn’t remember being advised by his optician or eye specialist that he needed to self-check he could meet the visual standard of driving eye test. Biggs admitted failing to check this at any point before the fatal collision.
After the interview Biggs was sent a postal requisition charging him with causing death by dangerous driving. He pleaded guilty to the charge at Peterborough Crown Court on 9 November.
PC Fay Millen, who investigated, said: “This is a heart-breaking case which shows the potentially devastating impact of not ensuring you are fit to drive before getting behind the wheel. This includes being able to see sufficiently.
“Biggs had clearly not done so or taken the prompts offered to him about his degenerative eye condition, not only by his optician but also by hospital staff.
“Due to his failure to do this, a family have lost someone they held so dearly who, at the age of 99, was a great-great auntie and who I’m sure is missed terribly.
“This collision could so easily have been avoided and I hope this case serves as a warning to others about checking they are fit to drive.”
Biggs was sentenced to 16 months in prison, suspended for 12 months, at the same court today (11 December). He was also disqualified from driving for four years.
In a new statement issued on the conclusion of the case, Mrs Clark’s family said: “This has been a tragic accident which has affected two families.
“On our part we have lost an auntie, and although she was almost 100 years old she was very independent, in good health, and very active. She was also due to go on a cruise two weeks after this incident.
“Lillian desperately wanted to be 100 and there is no doubt she would have achieved this. We do not, and have never wanted to seek revenge for her untimely death, but now feel justice has been seen to prevail.
“We would like to thank our liaison officer at Cambridge Constabulary, the CPS and legal team for their kindness, understanding and support through these difficult months.”