How a lorry driver tried to stop drugged-up motorist crashing as he 'careered out of control' for 15 miles on the A64

A drugged-up Scarborough driver zig-zagged across two lanes of the A64 for up to 15 miles – “miraculously” avoiding a head-on collision, a court heard. Craig Lassetter, 47, had absolutely no control of his Ford Focus which careered from one side of the A64 to the other as a startled lorry driver tried to keep up with the runaway car and keep others out of danger, York Crown Court heard. “The Ford Focus was drifting from side to side… (and) went from a verge then back across over the (centre) white lines into the other lane,” said prosecutor Victoria Hajba.

“The HGV driver follows the car for about 15 miles, (which was)… drifting sideways, and at one point came very close to hitting the side of the lorry’s trailer,” added Ms Hajba. The lorry driver, named in court, tried to slow down the car to protect other motorists, but Lassetter’s Focus again crossed on to the opposite side of the road “and there were oncoming vehicles” which had to brake “heavily” as his car came straight at them. The lorry driver later told police he thought a collision was all but certain.

Lassetter’s driving was so “erratic” the truck driver called police. “He thought the driver might be under the influence of something,” added Ms Hajba. “He said it was a miracle that over the 15 miles or so it did not cause a collision.” Police joined the pursuit as the Focus continued to swerve from side to side and “the driver seemed to be struggling to control the vehicle”, which was swerving from “within touching distance of the nearside kerb” to the centre white lines.

The Focus was eventually pulled over and Lassetter – whose wife was in the front passenger seat – was found with his head “drooped forward” in the driver’s seat. When he got out his speech was slurred and he was unsteady on his feet. He was taken into police custody where a doctor examined him and noted his “sluggish” responses and “jerking” eye movements.

A urine sample revealed several substances in Lassetter’s system including cannabis and Diazepam. Lassetter, of Oxcliff, Scarborough, had previous convictions including driving while unfit through drugs and cannabis possession. Defence barrister Andrew Semple said Lassetter was a full-time carer for his wife who had serious health conditions.

He added that Lassetter also suffered from chronic conditions as well as mental-health problems including anxiety. “He has been prescribed, for many years, a cocktail of medications,” said Mr Semple. These included Diazepam and sedatives, which had been found in the urine sample.

Mr Semple said Lassetter had driven out to his mother’s grave “as a trip out” and felt “capable” of driving. He said the prescription drugs themselves would not necessarily have precluded him from driving safely but, coupled with a lack of sleep from the night before, this had led to “lethargy”. He said Lassetter had been driving at “no more than 50mph” when he set off down the A64 on January 17.

Lassetter had not driven since and had taken his car off the road. He was originally charged with dangerous driving but denied the allegation. He ultimately admitted careless driving and driving while unfit through drugs.

He appeared for sentence on Tuesday. Judge Simon Hickey said Lassetter’s “stupid” offences were worthy of a jail sentence, particularly given his criminal record of 15 previous convictions for 55 offences. These included “many” violent and acquisitive crimes on the back of a past heroin habit.

Mr Hickey said that because Lassetter had been clean of the drug since 2002 and was a carer for his wife, he could suspend the inevitable jail sentence.

Lassetter received a two-month suspended jail sentence and was banned from driving for a year.

He was also fined GBP200 and ordered to pay a statutory surcharge, but no costs.

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