Grandad killed after elderly motorist with terrible eyesight crashes into him – Wiltshire Live


An eyesight test after the smash showed the motorist could only read a number plate from three metres away
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An elderly motorist whose eyesight was so bad he couldn't read a number plate from 10 feet away killed a cyclist by smashing into him in broad daylight because he couldn't see him. Salisbury Crown Court heard how Peter Gardner, 82, had such poor vision he 'shouldn't have been driving'.
'Loving' grandfather James Tassell, 70, was out cycling on a country road at 10am on a clear summer day when the pensioner's silver Vauxhall Vectra ploughed into the back of him, 'catapulting' him six feet into the air.
In order to pass a driving test, motorists must be able to read a number plate 20 metres (65ft) away – but an eyesight test after the smash showed Gardner could only read a plate three metres (9ft 10ins) away.
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A court also heard the retired rail worker had recently been told by an optician he may be developing cataracts – but failed to arrange a follow-up appointment. Now, Gardner has been jailed for six months as Mr Tassell's devastated family slammed him as 'arrogant' and 'foolish' for 'choosing to drive with terrible eyesight'.
A crown court heard Mr Tassell was cycling near Andover, Hants, at 10am on July 23 last year when he suffered 'traumatic' injuries after Gardner drove into the back of him. Mr Tassell, known as Jim, from Andover, was rushed Southampton General Hospital, Hants, by air ambulance and died five days later.
At Salisbury Crown Court, prosecutor Berenice Mulvanny said: "Mr Gardner was driving in the same direction as [Mr Tassell] and collided with him from the rear. Witnesses described [Mr Tassell] being catapulted two metres into the air. All the witnesses said Jim could be seen."
Ms Mulvanny told the court that the driver behind Gardner stopped to give Mr Tassell first aid, and Gardner said to him Mr Tassell was 'in the shadows' and that he 'didn't see him'. Ms Mulvanny continued: "Mr Gardner could only read registration plates from three metres as opposed to the regulated 20 metres."
A field impairment test was carried out and Mr Gardner was regarded as impaired. His eyesight was so poor he shouldn't have been driving." Mr Tassell was approaching his 50th wedding anniversary with wife Stephanie, who described her husband as 'loving' and 'kind'. In her victim impact statement, Mrs Tassell criticised Gardner.
She said: "[He was] a true gentleman – you took that same man away when you got behind the wheel of the car. But for your arrogance and selfishness Jim would still be with us now. For what you did to me and my family I will never forgive you."
The court heard that Gardner had previously had an opticians appointment in August 2019 where he was told that he may be developing cataracts and to come back in 12 months – which he did not arrange. Mr Tassell's son, Ben, said that Mr Gardner had robbed 'my mum of her husband and of her world'.
His daughter, Emma, said: "It is abundantly clear that you should not have been behind the wheel of a car. You have robbed my children of 'the best grandad.'"
Gardner was also described by Mr Tassell's daughter as 'selfish and incompetent' for 'choosing to drive with terrible eyesight' and the 'life sentence of grief and loss you have inflicted on us'. Barrister Ian Bridge, defending Gardner, said: "There is not a single day that goes by where [Mr Gardner] does not worry and, on occasion, cry about what he has done to [the Tassell family].
I can't stress enough how much [Mr Gardner] is upset by what he has done" He did not believe, living alone and isolated, that his eyesight was as bad as he now completely accepts it is.
"He now accepts that he should have realised [how bad his vision was], but he didn't. He just hopes the court accepts that it wasn't a deliberate decision."
Judge Andrew Barnett said: "Nothing the cyclist was doing was wrong. The police report identified the fault as the eyesight."He should have seen [Mr Tassell] but didn't."
Conditions were fine, the sun was out, but there was nothing significantly interfering with your vision other than the fact your eyesight was deteriorating. You drove, not at a great speed, to collide with devastating effect – catapulting [Mr Tassell] into the air, who suffered traumatic injuries which he died from on July 28.
"When you were seen at the place [of the incident], various tests were performed. You were clear of drink and drugs. But an eyesight test showed you could only read a number plate at three metres as opposed to [the regulation] 20 metres.
"That is quite a significant impairment. "I am told that you hadn't noticed any deterioration of your eyesight. I find it hard to believe you had not realised as you had continued to drive to the period of the collision.
"It must have been obvious to you you were not seeing things as you should. You have brought devastation, misery and despair upon the Tassell family.
"I have heard from Jim's widow and two children – who you have robbed of their husband and father – tearing a hole in their family. You, and you alone, have to live with that responsibility for the rest of your life.
"It seems to me that your recklessness and foolishness are quite obvious when you weren't seeing properly. Nothing I can say can ever turn the clock back and bring Jim back to his family.
"It seems to me that your carelessness and lack of concern about your failing eyesight is something that has got to be punished. It seems to me that your conduct has got to be marked by a prison sentence and that an immediate sentence of imprisonment is appropriate.
"Gardner, of Whitchurch, Hants, admitted death by careless driving. He was sentenced to six months in prison and disqualified from driving for three years and three months.
Judge Barnett added: "I trust you will, in practical terms, never drive again. "Following the sentencing, the Tassell family warned elderly drivers 'with poor eyesight to ensure they are medically fit to drive'.
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