18 February 2009
Campaigning road safety group Roadpeace recently asked Penny Knight
to attend the inquest of Marie Vesco who died whilst cycling along the A23 near Brighton. The West Sussex coroner recorded a narrative verdict at the inquest. The inquest heard how Marie and her friends were involved in a tragic collision at the Burgess Hill turn-off on the A23. The road has three lanes at this point with the inside lane becoming the slip road for the junction. Marie and her friends were going straight along the A23 and so had to cross the slip road to keep on the main carriageway. The cars involved in the crash were intending to turn off. Marie, 19, was in collision with a Ford Galaxy motor vehicle that caused her to fall to the ground. She was then struck by a Ford Mondeo motor vehicle. As a result she sustained fatal injuries.
, head of the cycling and sports injuries team at Leigh Day, was struck by a number of points raised at the inquest. The driver of the first car admitted seeing the cyclists and was aware that there was a possibility that they might having been moving straight ahead rather than turning off the road. The driver saw that Marie was in the centre of the slip road and that she seemed unstable and wobbly. Despite this the driver decided that she had enough space to pull in front and across Marie’s path up the slip road. She hit Marie with the wing mirror of her car.
Marie’s family were unaware that a charge for driving without due care and attention had to be made within six months of the incident, and the police did not tell them until after the end of the six month period that they did not intend to prosecute either of the drivers involved in the crash. The family felt they were completely left out in terms of being told what had happened, the evidence available to the police and the CPS and the decision not to prosecute until it was too late to do anything.
There was a cycle route available which the cyclists could have taken to avoid being on the A23 at this point but the signage was bad or non-existent and so the Coroner is writing to the Highways Agency to require them to improve the signage.
“Once again I have attended the inquest into the tragic death of a cyclist. It is disappointing that the police and CPS decided not to bring charges of driving without due care and attention against the motorists involved in this tragedy and that simple steps to improve the cycle lane signage on the A23 were not made that could have meant the difference between life and death for this young student.”
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