Ceri Widdett represents family in wrong-way M1 crash inquest

October 12, 2018

Ceri Widdett from Exchange Chambers, instructed by Hudgell Solicitors, represented the family of a man who died in a crash when an 87-year-old drove the wrong way on the M1, at the inquest into his death.

Michael Luciw, 27, was killed when Albert Newman drove 30 miles along the wrong carriageways of the M42, A42 and M1, without being stopped.

Mr Luciw, a father-of-one from Sutton-in-Ashfield who was a passenger in the van, was killed and driver Andy Harrington was injured.

The inquest ruled that Mr Luciw died from chest injuries sustained in a road traffic collision.

Mr Luciw’s family said Mr Newman, who had dementia, should have had his car taken away after his licence was revoked.

Vicky Richardson, of Hudgell Solicitors, represented Mr Luciw’s family and said legal cases may yet be brought against all three forces involved for their failings prior to, and on the night of the accident.

She said that the case has highlighted the need for a ‘thorough investigation’ into the responsibilities of all organisations and professionals involved.

“What we have here is a tragic case of a young father losing his life because there have been numerous failings to prevent a confused, elderly gentleman with dementia from getting behind the wheel,” she said.

“Mr Newman was not in a fit mental state to know he shouldn’t be driving, or the danger he was putting himself and others in, but to say this accident was entirely unpreventable is wholly wrong.

“The DVLA knew he had dementia and revoked his licence, but police say they were not informed.

“The police were, however, informed twice that he was driving and visited his home twice, but still failed to stop him from driving. There were clear failings here with the regards the duty of police officers to fully investigate and ensure he was off the roads.

“Then, on the night itself, two police forces were completely unprepared to deal with the situation, leading to a lack of decisive action and a number of errors which affected the emergency response.

“With the amount of collective information coming from drivers and witnesses across the three force areas, questions have to be asked as to why they were not able to warn other drivers and get to Mr Newman themselves – 30 miles is a significant distance.

“Had warning messages been put on the right signs, the driver of the vehicle Mr Luciw had been travelling in may have been made aware of the oncoming danger and been better prepared to take evasive action. He was in the outside lane at the time.

“Why was a police helicopter not deployed to follow him and potentially to warn other drivers? Why was there a lack of traffic officers available and most of all, why was there not a process in place to handle such a situation?”

“This case has opened up so many areas of concern. Ultimately, the DVLA is informed that people have dementia and revokes their licence, but does nothing more to ensure they are not still driving. It is almost beyond belief. It is deeply worrying.

“We’d like assurances from other police forces that they have full policies and procedures in place for this scenario also. It will happen regularly and as this case sadly showed, it is life-threatening. It cannot be handled off the cuff.

“Surely there should be policies to reduce risk, such as taking action to close off motorway entrances in the direction a vehicle is heading to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. To have no plan is appalling. They were effectively hoping it ended safely.”

The inquest heard that whilst the police forces involved had no set procedures in place, Highways England adopt a number of agreed approaches to react to a vehicle travelling the wrong way on a motorway.

These include dropping the speed limit on both sides of the motorway to 20mph and displaying the lower limit on all roadside and overhead signs on both sides, as this could lead to a driver seeing the signs even when travelling the wrong way.