A speeding driver who fatally crashed into a stranded car while high on cannabis has been jailed.
Labourer Ahmed Mohamed was found to be 3 times the legal drug driving limit when his blood was tested some 8 hours after the crash. It was also found that he had been using his mobile phone to make 11 calls and send a text message in the 22 minutes prior to the incident, with the last call being made just 28 seconds before the crash.
Victim Mark Sharp had been involved in three crashes on the busy dual carriageway just seconds apart. He had remained in his vehicle and was awaiting the emergency services on the A2 near Dartford when Mohamed failed to see the accident and ploughed into the side of the stranded vehicle as it straddled the middle and outside lanes.
On attending the incident, Police found a cannabis grinder in Mohamed’s Nissan Qasqui which smelled of the class B drug, indicating recent use, the court heard.
He initially refused to give blood samples, but when tests were eventually carried out some 8 hours later, they showed Mohamed to be more than three times the legal limit for taking drugs and driving. It was also shown that he was driving in the wrong lane, contrary to the Highway Code for the conditions as well as being oblivious to the overhead warning signs warning of the accident ahead.
Maidstone Crown Court heard that Mr. Sharp had survived two earlier collisions which occurred just 16 seconds apart. He was then caught up in a third collision involving three vans and a Citroen C3 just a few seconds later as they attempted to avoid his Nissan Micra.
It wasn’t until 14 minutes later, however, that the fatal collision took place.
Mohamed was travelling in the middle lane at speeds of between 70 and 86mph. In front of him 63-year-old cleaner Stuart Lomas was driving between 48mph and 55mph in his Ford Focus.
As he approached, Lomas braked and was able to avoid a stationary Citroen Saxo which had been involved in the second, earlier collision, but he was unable to avoid Mr. Sharp’s Micra, knocking it sideways to cross the outside lane.
Seeing this incident ahead of him, the speeding Mohamed pulled out into the outside lane, hitting Mr. Sharp’s car into the central reservation causing him critical injuries and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Mohamed’s vehicle rolled several times and ended up on its side.
In the four collisions a total of nine vehicles were involved, however, no-one else was seriously hurt. It has also been revealed that there were nine defective street lamps on that section of the road.
Sharp was described as a “gentleman with a happy, caring, and generous manner” in a tribute by his family.
Mohamed, of Plumstead, south east London, denied causing death by dangerous driving but admitted causing death by careless driving while over the prescribed limit which was accepted by the prosecution. His blood contained 6.4 microgrammes of cannabinoids per litre, the legal drug-driving limit is 2mcg.
Judge David Griffith-Jones QC said that while the levels could not be an accurate measure of how his ability to drive was affected, it meant that it fell “significantly short” of expected standards, while his mobile phone use was “wholly inexcusable.”
Mohamed has been jailed for four years and 11 months and banned from driving for seven years and five-and-a-half months.
Lomas, who also denied dangerous driving but admitted careless driving was fined £375, given six license points and ordered to pay £250 costs.
Prosecutor Simon Taylor told the court on Monday, Mohamed’s driving was careless driving that fell “not far short” of dangerous driving.
He said: “The very nature of his driving was clear from the CCTV footage. But, it was only once the police investigation had been completed that the true depth of its ineptitude was revealed.
“His mobile telephone was being used immediately prior to the incident and his explanation that he was using it for its SatNav function was untrue.
“He was driving too fast and the speed he was travelling at gave him no chance of avoiding a collision.
“The reason his driving was so poor comes from the fact he had consumed cannabis. When and how much the Crown cannot say, not least because of the delay in taking the sample.”
Regarding Mr. Lomas, Taylor said that although he was not speeding, Mr. Sharp’s vehicle had been in view for some time.”If he had been driving in lane one as per the Highway Code he would have avoided a collision.”
“His failure to take action until it was too late demonstrates his driving fell below that expected of a careful and competent driver, as show by in excess of 160 other vehicles.”
Mr. Sharps brother-in-law Andy Fish said after the hearing that the family were still in shock, and that they had hoped for a longer sentence.
“Anyone in this situation wants as much as they can possibly get for someone who has been taken from the family” said the 43-year-old.
“But we understand the law is what it is and in those terms he got a reasonable sentence. In an ideal world he should have got life but he hasn’t.”
Fish added that it was the defendants’ “complete disregard” of the overhead warnings that the family had most struggled with.
“It would be nice if people learn from this and understood the signs are there for a reason, they do mean something and they should be abided by. This wouldn’t have happened if they had been.
“As for the other factors, Mohamed was on his phone and everyone knows how stupid that is.”
Senior investigating officer, Sergeant Chris Wade of the Kent Police Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: “Both of these drivers had been driving in the second lane, and if they had been travelling in lane one – as per Highway Code guidance – like many cars before them, they could have both passed the crashed cars without incident.
“When the collision was first reported, warning messages were posted on digital messaging signs on the carriageway to make approaching drivers aware of the collision ahead and that lanes two and three were closed. Lomas and Mohamed would have had time to see the signs and react to that information and have either failed to notice them or chose to disregard them.
“Regardless of whether you drive the same stretch of road daily or not, drivers need to remain alert that these incidents can occur at any time, anywhere, and to anyone, and complacency and lack of concentration can – and does – lead to tragic consequences.
“My thoughts are with Mr Sharp’s family who have shown the utmost dignity and understanding in what has been a very prolonged and distressing case for them, and I thank them for their support throughout.”
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