Dashcam shows moment sleepy lorry driver crashed on M5
A lorry driver who caused massive delays by crashing on the M5 probably nodded off at the wheel due to fatigue, a court has been told. Sarah-Louise Murray, 24, had been driving the HGV from Scotland for more than the permitted 10 hours when she crashed through the central barrier, causing the lorry to land on its side across the northbound carriageway. The section of road between junction 26 at Wellington and 27 at Taunton was closed for many hours while the overturned vehicle was removed.
: M5 lorry crash: What we know so far after motorway closure between Wellington and Taunton Murray was taken to hospital with minor injuries but no one else was hurt. A judge at Taunton Crown Court told Murray: “This was a course of driving, as you accept, that could have had absolutely disastrous consequences.”
“It could easily have caused substantial loss of life.” The incident happened at 7.10am on March 13. Prosecutor Mr Harry Ahuja said Murray, who worked for the family haulage business, was driving a Scania HGV southbound.
A man driving in the car behind noticed some ‘odd behaviour’. The HGV drifted from the slow lane into the middle lane without indicating, in what appeared to be an overtaking manoeuvre. However there was no vehicle to overtake.
The lorry then drifted back into Lane 1.
“He described it happening two or three times,” said the prosecutor. The car driver then attempted to overtake the lorry, but as he approached the HGV drifted slowly onto the hard shoulder. “It appeared to hit the verge causing it to ricochet across all three lanes into the central reservation and onto the northbound carriageway where it fell to its side and drifted across,” said Mr Ahuja.
Murray was taken to Musgrove Park Hospital. She tested negative for alcohol and drugs. Police later examined the lorry’s digital tachograph, which records a driver’s data and activity.
They found the driver’s card had been removed from the tachograph. It showed a rest period of eight hours and 53 minutes when the requirement for HGV drivers is at least nine hours. The continuous drive time was found to be 36 minutes beyond the maximum 10 hours.
“It appeared the driver’s card had been removed from the lorry at 6.47am,” said the prosecutor. “It must have been done deliberately by the driver.
The vehicle unit shows it was driven at 6.50am to 7.15am without the card inserted.” Murray deliberately removed the card but continued to drive. “The prosecution view is that we strongly suspect this accident was caused by driver fatigue and potentially Murray falling asleep at the wheel, said Mr Ahuja.
Murray, who was 23 at the time of the crash, has no previous convictions. She pleaded guilty to dangerous driving at the first opportunity. Mr Alun Williams, defending, said: “There could have been catastrophic consequences and it was remarkable good fortune nobody was killed in the incident.”
He said Murray was half and hour from Taunton Deane Services. She had taken a number of breaks during the journey from Cairnryan in Dumfries. But he said services before Taunton Deane were ‘less than salubrious for female drivers’ and she wanted a shower.
“She should have inserted her card and should not have gone over hours,” he added. Murray has been left with a permanent scar on her head and the family business, based in Northern Ireland, was no longer trading. She was very hard working, having passed her test at 18 and educated, having studied law at Queen’s University in Belfast.
She was now working in customs. Judge James Townsend said he would not send her to prison due to her early pleas, mitigation, and the fact she was heavily pregnant. He said she had not driven in accordance with HGV rules designed to protect the public and driver’s themselves from fatigue with ‘inevitable consequences’.
“I take into account your good character and you are hard working. No doubt the reason you got into this situation is that you were trying to help the family business. I have every confidence you won’t get into trouble again.”
He said the seriousness of the offence meant it must be marked by a custodial sentence but he would suspended it. Murray, of Killylea in Armagh, was jailed for eight months, suspended for 18 months. She was disqualified from driving for 12 months and must take an extended test before getting her licence back.
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