An HGV driver has been found guilty of causing death by careless driving after he collided with a veteran car that had mistakenly been driven on to a motorway.
Michael Black was driving his lorry on the M23 near Merstham when it struck the rear of a Knox Model C car, causing both its driver Ronald Carey and his wife Billi to be thrown from the vehicle.
Both had travelled from Canada to take part in the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in November 2019, but during the event 80-year-old Carey mistakenly took the slip road for the M23 instead of the designated route of the A23.
The lorry driver’s defence was that he did not see the car in front of him until it was too late, as a result of ‘looming’ and the sun being a distraction, but analysis of Black’s mobile phone showed a phone call was in progress at the time of the collision.
Black said he had tapped his phone screen to place a call before the accident, which happened as Carey drove his 116-year-old Knox at around 20mph in the third lane of the M23.
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 denying he had done anything wrong, 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.”
Black also 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.”
Kelly Newton, from Surrey Police’s serious collision investigation unit, said: “This was a tragic set of events which has sadly resulted in the loss of Mr Carey’s life and serious injury to Mrs Carey.
“Our thoughts remain with Mr Carey’s family and I hope that the guilty verdict today will help them begin to come to terms with their loss and to start to move on with their lives.
“I hope it sends a clear message to other drivers – that losing concentration, even for a few seconds, can have devastating consequences.”
Black will be sentenced on 8 December.