Coach driver found guilty of causing three deaths and serious injury by dangerous driving - M1 Bedfordshire

16/11/2016

A coach driver has today, Wednesday, 16 November 2016, been found guilty at Luton Crown Court of causing the deaths of three men and serious injury of another by dangerous driving on the M1 in Bedfordshire on Valentine's Day last year.

Alan Peters, aged 78, of Ambleside Valley Drive, Gravesend, was today convicted of three counts of causing death by dangerous driving and one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Allan Evans, aged 59, from Islington, London, Tom Aldridge, aged 20, and Nathan Reeves, aged 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 collision occurred.

The jury heard how Peters failed to see signs saying that the hard shoulder was for emergency use only and travelled along it for almost three minutes before colliding with the car, which had its hazard warning lights activated.

Allan had pulled over on the hard shoulder of the motorway after the oil light lit up on the dashboard. He had just finished topping up the oil and was preparing to set off again when the collision occurred.

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 today's convictions 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."

PC David Clarke, of the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Hertfordshire Forensic Collisions Investigation Unit, said: "This was an utterly devastating incident which resulted in three innocent men having their lives cut short.

"What makes this even more tragic is that the collision was completely avoidable.

"Peters consistently ignored signs saying that the hard shoulder was for emergency use only and also had ample time in which to see the car and move to a different lane.

"His lack of attentiveness on that fatal morning has forever changed the lives of four families and Peters will have to live with that for the rest of his life.

"I would like to urge every driver to 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 themselves with this vital information could help prevent further tragic incidents such as this."

Peters will be sentenced, on a date to be confirmed, in December.