The Daily Telegraph
Motorist unable to see 10ft away killed cyclist
Jailed driver, 82, who knew he was at risk of cataracts is told by victim’s widow that he will never be forgiven
‘But for your arrogance and selfishness, Jim would still be with us now. For what you did to me and my family I will never forgive you’
AN ELDERLY motorist whose sight was so bad he could not read a number plate from 10ft away killed a cyclist on a clear day, a court heard.
Peter Gardner, 82, “shouldn’t have been driving” when he “catapulted” James Tassell 6ft into the air.
Mr Tassell, 70, was cycling on a country road near Andover, Hants, at 10am on July 23 last year when the pensioner’s silver Vauxhall Vectra went into the back of him.
In order to pass a driving test, motorists must be able to read a number plate 20 metres (65ft) away – but an eyesight test after the crash showed that Gardner could only read a plate 3m (10ft) away.
Salisbury Crown Court also heard that the retired rail worker had been told by an optician in August 2019 that he may be developing cataracts, but failed to arrange a follow-up appointment.
Mr Tassell, known as Jim, from Andover, was flown to Southampton General Hospital by air ambulance after the crash and died five days later.
Prosecutor Berenice Mulvanny said: “Gardner was driving in the same direction as [Mr Tassell] and collided with him from the rear. Witnesses described [Mr Tassell] being catapulted 2m into the air.
“All the witnesses said Jim could be seen. Gardner could only read registration plates from 3m as opposed to the regulated 20m. A field impairment test was carried out and Gardner was regarded as impaired. His eyesight was so poor he shouldn’t have been driving.” Mr Tassell was approaching his 50th wedding anniversary with wife Stephanie, who described her husband as “loving” and “kind”.
In her victim impact statement, Mrs Tassell said: “[James was] a true gentleman – you took that same man away when you got behind the wheel of the car.
“But for your arrogance and selfishness, Jim would still be with us now. For what you did to me and my family I will never forgive you.”
Ian Bridge, defending Gardner, said: “There is not a single day that goes by where he does not worry and, on occasion, cry about what he has done to the Tassell family.
“I can’t stress enough how much he is upset by what he has done.”
Judge Andrew Barnett said: “Nothing the cyclist was doing was wrong. The police report identified the fault as the eyesight. He should have seen Mr Tassell but didn’t.
“You drove, not at a great speed, to collide with devastating effect – catapulting Mr Tassell into the air, who suffered traumatic injuries which he died from on July 28. It seems to me that your carelessness and lack of concern about your failing eyesight is something that has got to be punished.
“It seems to me that your conduct has got to be marked by a prison sentence and that an immediate sentence of imprisonment is appropriate.”
Gardner, of Whitchurch, Hants, admitted death by careless driving.
He was sentenced to six months in prison and disqualified from driving for three years and three months.
Following the sentencing, the Tassell family warned elderly drivers “with poor eyesight to ensure they are medically fit to drive”.