THE director of highways has called into question the driving skills of a man acquitted of causing the death by dangerous driving of a Ballasalla biker at this year’s TT festival.
And Richard Pearson has said there are no plans to erect new signage or paint double white lines on the road where 65-year-old Robert Kneale lost his life.
Last week Australian Craig Waghorn was cleared of causing Mr Kneale’s death near the Fairy Bridge on June 6.
Mr Kneale, of Clagh Vane, was kille when his Yamaha motorbike was in collision with Mr Waghorn’s hire car.
The court heard Mr Waghorn, 42, of Newport, Victoria, was carrying out a three-point turn at the time of the accident. The prosecution argued this was ‘inherently dangerous’.
But Mr Waghorn insisted he had checked the road was clear at the start of the manoeuvre.
Mr Waghorn had denied causing Mr Kneale’s death by dangerous driving and an alternative charge of driving without due care and attention. Following a four-day trial, the jury acquitted him on both charges.
When asked by the Manx Independent about the need for double white lines or extra signage in the area, Mr Pearson said the stretch of road in question was ‘not a good place’ to carry out a three-point turn and said there were ‘remaining question marks’ about Mr Waghorn’s ‘judgement and skills’.
He said both a ‘No U-Turn’ sign and white lines would be inappropriate.
Extending the Department of Infrastructure’s deepest sympathies to Mr Kneale’s friends and relatives, Mr Pearson said: ‘Losing a loved one in these circumstances is always a tragedy.
‘As far as we understand this incident, the car driver was carrying out a three-point turn and was hit by a motorcycle travelling fairly quickly. The driver of the car was allegedly driving “dangerously” however the prosecution for causing death by dangerous driving has not been successful.’
He continued: ‘Notwithstanding the legal outcome, this section of road is not a good place to carry out a three-point turn and there are remaining question marks about the driver’s judgement and skills in undertaking that manoeuvre, although clearly the Deemster (sic) decided that in this case the evidence was insufficient to meet the definition of dangerous driving.’
Mr Pearson said if someone drove badly it was ‘ultimately a matter of personal responsibility and accountability for the driver concerned’. He said although the Highway Code provided a framework of advice, a driver’s experience level was also a factor in determining how safely they behaved.
He added his department reviewed accidents and suggested improvements in layout and signage if a pattern emerged.
‘In this instance, there is a sight line that is suitable for overtaking manoeuvres and therefore double white lines, which are only used where there is no adequate sight line, would not be appropriate,’ he said. ‘We could erect a “No U-Turn” sign however it is very rare that someone would attempt a U-turn manoeuvre at this location and the sign itself could present a hazard in other circumstances.
‘This was a visiting driver who was not familiar with Manx roads, or this road in particular, may have played a part. Therefore our current view is that there is no obvious pattern of problems here and there is no immediate change required to the highway.
‘The accident appears to be a tragic one-off and it is not clear what steps the Department of Infrastructure could have taken to prevent it. The department will scrutinise the detailed findings of the court and consider what, if any, steps might be applicable.’
Mr Pearson also pointed out the DoI had recently brought forward changes to the law so that if death by dangerous driving is not proven, other less serious offences can be considered.
A new range of offences that may be more appropriate depending on the specific circumstances of an incident have also been brought forward.
The new legislation is expected to be brought into power in January 2012.
‘If a similar incident occurs once that legislation is in place it is possible that a lower offence might have resulted in a successful prosecution,’ said Mr Pearson.
The jury last week did, in fact, clear Mr Waghorn of a lesser charge of driving without due care and attention.