Coach driver jailed for seven years after fatal M1 collision

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Judge questions defendant’s choice of long-distance coach driving at the age of 76

Coach driver jailed for seven years imprisonment after causing the deaths of three men on the M1. A coach driver who killed three men after his coach collided with their stationary car on the hard shoulder of the M1 has been jailed for seven years.

When he was sentenced at on December 19, Alan Peters, now aged 78, was also disqualified from driving for five years. As reported in CBW1267, he was found guilty on November 16 of three counts of causing death by dangerous driving and one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

CPS Thames and Chiltern confirmed with the prosecutor that a driving ban of five years will apply upon release.

He denied causing the deaths on February 14, 2015. He also denied causing serious injury to Jake Dorling by dangerous driving. However, in a trial in November he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of three counts of death by dangerous driving.

Judge Richard Foster warned that a custodial sentence would be certain. At the trial, the jury of nine women and three men convicted him unanimously on all four counts.

The incident on Valentine’s Day last year saw Mr Peters’ coach collide with a stationary Audi along the hard shoulder of the M1 between junctions 12 and 13.

The passengers of the Audi, Allan Evans, 59, from Islington, London, Tom Aldridge, 20, and Nathan Reeves, 23, both from Newport Pagnell, tragically died. The fourth passenger, Jake Dorling suffered a fractured skull and other serious injuries as a result.

The four friends were travelling back from a night out in London, when their oil light began to flash so they pulled onto the hard shoulder, with their hazard lights on. Just as the car was about pull away, the Berkhof-bodied Volvo double-decker operated by Sheerness-based Travelmaster smashed into the back.

The jury at Luton Crown Court heard how Mr. Peters failed to notice signs indicating the hard shoulder was for emergency use only. Prosecutor Peter Shaw said that the coach hit the Audi at an estimated speed of 61mph and that the driver had ample opportunity to abide the signs.

“There was ample opportunity for the defendant to have heeded those warnings.  However, in contravention of those signs he entered the hard shoulder and once on the hard shoulder, he remained there for two minutes and 48 seconds,” said Mr Shaw.

“Not only did the defendant make the serious error of moving into the hard shoulder and maintaining his position there at cruising speed, he failed to react to the stationary car ahead until the very last, with evidence of him applying his brakes 0.4 seconds before impact.

“It was a clear run uninterrupted by intervening cars and the Audi had its hazard warning lights on. The stationary Audi would have been in view for 1500 metres, equating to a travelling time of 55 seconds. Mr Peters steered the coach to the right only 0.6 seconds prior to the impact.”

PC David Clarke, of the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Hertfordshire Forensic Collisions Investigation Unit, said: “Mr Peters’ lack of attentiveness on that fatal morning has forever changed the lives of four families and he will have to live with that for the rest of his life. I would like to urge every driver to use this sentence as a stark reminder that dangerous driving is not acceptable and will be punished.”

Jailing him, Judge Foster said: “At the time of this accident you were 76 years of age. You had other choices available to you. You could have questioned whether you should have continued as a professional driver at all at that age with all the responsibilities it entails – or at least whether you should carry out long journeys, especially with such an early start. On the morning in question if you felt that you were struggling to concentrate, you could have chosen to take a break at Toddington Services just before junction 12.”

As Mr Peters was sentenced, his barrister Nigel Lickley QC read a reference from the Reverend Angela Walker who got to know him following his wife’s death. She wrote: “It was clear to me he was deeply upset and distressed at the heartache he had caused to the family. Alan deeply regrets the accident. He would never willingly hurt anyone. The scene of the accident plays over and over again in his mind. He has shown deep remorse to those he has hurt. Alan is being punished every day.”