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Driver, 90, banned after mowing down South Molton pedestrian

By This is NorthDevon  |  Posted: November 23, 2012

Exeter Crown Court

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A 90-year-old driver has been told he must never drive again after a pedestrian lost part of her leg when he ran her down in South Molton.

William Peto was trying to make a U-turn in the centre of the town when his built-up shoe jammed between the accelerator and brake and his car shot along the pavement.

He hit 24-year-year-old shopper Laura Reddy, who suffered horrific injuries and needed emergency surgery to amputate the bottom of one leg.

Her older sister Nadine Marchant leapt to safety with less serious injuries and then used her belt as a tourniquet to save Laura’s life by staunching the bleeding from her leg.

Peto, of Lapford House Wood, Lapford, admitted careless driving and was fined £2,500 with £100 costs and disqualified from driving for two years by Judge Erik Salomonsen at Exeter Crown Court. The judge invoked rarely used powers under the Road Traffic Act to extend the ban indefinitely on the grounds that Peto’s age and infirmity render him a danger to the public.

The judge said: “This accident had the most dreadful consequences. It was mundane in that you were performing a perfectly normal procedure but your foot seems to have got caught on the pedal and you hit the kerb and went out of control. The circumstances may be mundane but the consequences were catastrophic.

“You collided with two pedestrians on the pavement and both suffered significant injuries. Miss Reddy suffered the most dreadful injuries which will impact upon her for the rest of her life. So far as she and her sister are concerned, I have read their victim impact statements and nobody could fail to be moved by the suffering the accident has visited upon them.

“Nothing can compensate them for those injuries and it is not what this court has to deal with today in financial or other terms. It is impossible to do justice to the injuries. All I can do is deliver a penalty for the manner of the driving and this court’s powers of punishment are limited to a fine and a discretionary disqualification.

“I am told these events have affected you emotionally as well. You are a man of good character and I have no doubt you would not have wished what occurred. It is clear to me you must never drive again. The nature of your health means you may be a danger to the public if you do.”

After finishing his sentencing the Judge asked Peto if he had understood what he had said. He replied: ”Very little of it, I’m afraid.” The judge told him his lawyer would explain.

Richard Crabb, prosecuting, said the crash happened at the junction of South Street and Southleigh Street in South Molton, Devon, at 3.45 pm on November 11 last year.

Peto’s automatic Smart car was making a u-turn when he hit the kerb and lost control, riding along the pavement at 20 to 25 mph and hitting the sisters before careering into a telegraph pole.

He said: ”The two sisters suddenly became aware of a vehicle approaching them which seemed to be accelerating. They did not have time to move and it took less than a second for it to travel down the pavement and hit them. Mrs Marchant was thrown onto the road and suffered minor injuries but Miss Reddy bore the brunt of the impact and was knocked to the ground.

“She described being in extreme pain and seeing her lower right leg bone protruding through her boot. She was bleeding profusely and her sister had the presence of mind to apply her belt around the thigh to stop the bleeding.”

Laura was taken to two hospitals locally before being moved to a specialist unit at Frenchay in Bristol where the lower part of her leg was amputated.

She has had five operations and skin grafts and now suffers from the shortening of one leg. The sisters both made impact statements.

Laura said: ”This has been a life changing experience. Not only have I suffered horrific injuries but I and my family have suffered mental torture.” Her sister has needed treatment for post traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Lee Bremridge, defending, said Peto was so shocked by the accident he has voluntarily surrendered his licence and has no intention of applying for it again.

He said: ”What happened was a dreadful accident. He tried to make a u-turn but his foot got caught between the accelerator and the brake and the car launched itself across the road.”

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  • tomgreen1234  |  November 24 2012, 4:38PM

    Have to agree with both of you. The worrying thing is it looks like he has only been told not to drive again, in other words advised not to rather than banned for life and licence taken away from him. Agree with Bangtastic, make every one take tests and 65 but I think more importantly is to make sure they have a stringent medical examination, including eye tests, every year. If they don't pass the examination take their licence away from them until they pass the medical & the driving test.

  • Bangtastic  |  November 24 2012, 4:17PM

    Horrendous story. Not only do I agree with accom about drivers aged 90 shouldn't be allowed to drive, I would go one step further. MANDATORY driving tests for everyone when they reach the age of 65' which also includes an examination of medical conditions, I.e. passed fit to drive by a Doctor, then retests every year until they fail due to medical conditions or inability to drive. Ludicrous that this guy should be allowed to drive because of his medical condition let alone his obvious inability to drive. He didn't even understand what the charges were as the judge said the lawyer would explain later. His family should also be held responsible, what were they thinking allowing him to drive, maybe they should have been made to pay some of his fine. The government needs to get involved and bring some laws in to ensure things like this do NOT happen again.

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  • NDJNews  |  November 23 2012, 4:43PM

    To be fair we only posted the story at 3.04pm and your comment was at 3.12pm, so there wasn't much time for anyone else to comment.

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  • accom  |  November 23 2012, 3:12PM

    It's telling that there have been no comments yet. This was clearly a tragic accident and has affected the driver deeply also - but had this been a young driver, there would have been a tirade of anger about careless young drivers and calls for 10 years in prison. Young drivers still bear the brunt of the blame for the mistakes of drivers of all ages. I don't think anyone aged 90 should be allowed to drive, full stop.

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