Fatal crash driver ‘didn’t know it was illegal to use phone on road’

Lorry driver who killed Canadian oil millionaire, 80, in crash during London to Brighton veteran car rally ‘while trying to make phone call’ did not know it was illegal to use mobile phone at the wheel, court hears

  • Michael Black, 52, tried to call a friend using his mobile before a fatal collision
  • Mr Black’s lorry crashed into a vintage car driven at 20mph by Ron Carey, 80
  • The victim took a wrong turn during the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run
  • Mr Carey ended up on the M23 near Hooley, Surrey, and sadly died at the scene

By Stewart Carr For Mailonline

Published: 17:07, 15 November 2021 | Updated: 17:07, 15 November 2021

A trucker involved in a fatal collision with a Canadian millionaire taking part in the world-famous London to Brighton Veteran car rally today told a jury he did not think ‘tapping’ a mobile phone while driving was illegal.

Michael Black, 52, was behind the wheel of his tipper lorry on the M23 southbound when his truck smashed into the back of a 1903 Knox car driven by 80-year-old Ronald Carey.

Mr Carey’s wife Billi, who was at his side as a passenger, survived the crash, which took place at around 10am in the morning of November 3, 2019, near Hooley, Surrey.

Mr Black, of Crawley, West Sussex, denies one count of causing death by dangerous driving and another of causing serious injury by dangerous driving. 

Ron Carey, 80, had been at the wheel of a 1903 Knox Runabout ‘Old Porcupine’ vehicle with his wife Billi.

This photograph is thought to have been taken hours before he died

Fatal crash driver 'didn't know it was illegal to use phone on road'

Mr Carey, pictured with his wife Billi, was described as ‘very well-respected and well-liked’

Fatal crash driver 'didn't know it was illegal to use phone on road'

Police at the scene of the crash on the M23 near Hooley, Surrey, on November 3, 2019

The jury at his trial at Guildford Crown Court today heard he had been trying to phone one of his friends, known as ‘Richie’ in the moments before the collision. 

Under cross examination, Mr Black admitted he had tapped his phone screen to place a call before the accident, which happened as Mr Carey’s 116-year-old Knox travelled at around 20mph in the third lane of the M23 .

Mr Black said: ‘I actually thought it was alright to tap it [his mobile phone]. 

‘I did not think that it was any worse than touching a stereo. I am not saying that it is alright, but I just tapped the phone.’

Asked if he was in denial that he had done anything wrong, Mr Black became emotional and added: ‘That is not true. I am sorry that is not true.

‘Obviously someone has passed away and I have to live with that for the rest of my life and I can never undo that and I have got to live with that every day of my life.

‘I am not saying that I did not do anything wrong.

Obviously I hit the car, which was wrong but unfortunately I did not expect to come across a vehicle doing 20mph in a four-lane motorway with a 70mph limit.’

Fatal crash driver 'didn't know it was illegal to use phone on road'

Mr and Mrs Carey were pictured riding the Knox vehicle on the Mall at the start of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

Fatal crash driver 'didn't know it was illegal to use phone on road'

Mr Carey is understood to have taken the wrong lane and ended up on the M23 shortly before the crash on November 3, 2019

Earlier, Mr Black told the jury that the sun glaring off the damp road in front of him made it harder for him to see the unusual looking Knox in front of him. 

He said: ‘The use of my mobile phone was not distracting me. The sun was bouncing off the road and that was a distraction. It was not the sole reason but it was part of the reason.

‘The next thing I remember is having a slow-moving car in front of me and try to brake and swerve to avoid that vehicle.’ 

Judge Patricia Lees heard that Mr Black had twice taken part in police advanced driving courses and previously worked in law enforcement with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

He told Guildford Crown Court that he had been driving his Scania tripper truck for about two months, having held an HGV licence for more than 15 years.

Mr Black added: ‘In a truck, you drive on your mirrors more than out of the windscreen because there is so much going on behind you.’

Previously the jury watched CCTV from Mr Black’s vehicle, showing the moment the orange-coloured lorry smashed into the back of the small open-top veteran car.  

Prosecutor Scott Brady told the court that Canadian oil millionaire Mr Carey and his wife Billi had just taken a wrong turn in their 1903 Knox Runabout ‘Old Porcupine’ car and ended up by accident on the bustling motorway.

Fatal crash driver 'didn't know it was illegal to use phone on road'

A listing for Mr and Mrs Carey’s vehicle on the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run website, which states it was registered in Arizona, has since been taken down

Mr Brady told the jury: ‘They were in the third lane and ahead of Mr Black. He was directly behind them in lane three. Shortly after 10am, Black’s Scania collided with the Knox.

‘He ran into the back of the Knox veteran car and tragically, in this case, Mr Carey was killed in the collision.

His wife was badly injured. She sustained multiple injures and was helicoptered to hospital, where thankfully she survived.

‘If Black had been keeping a good lookout this accident would not have occurred. He was not keeping a good lookout because, in his own words, “I wasn’t looking, I looked down and they were there”.

‘He said he wasn’t keeping a good lookout because he was distracted by a phone call he was trying to make to a friend.

He was certainly making a phone call at the time of the collision and he admitted as much, in a police interview.

‘He said it was “ringing, ringing, ringing and it did not connect and I impacted with the vehicle.”‘

An investigation revealed the vintage car was almost totally destroyed in the incident.

The seating where Mr Carey and his wife had sat was totally detached from the vehicle.

Collision investigator Joanna Robins said there was also some damage to the lorry, adding: ‘There was damage to the front of the windscreen of the Scania.

It had hair embedded in the glass it is believed to be from Mr Carey.’

Mr Carey’s widow listened throughout the trial on a remote link from Arizona, USA. 

The trial continues.