back to article Lord Ahmed faces dangerous driving charge

A Labour Peer has been charged with dangerous driving after allegedly sending text messages shortly before hitting a car on the M1 on Christmas Day, 2007. Lord Ahmed has been called to appear before Sheffield magistrates in connection with dangerous driving offences. He is accused of crashing his Jaguar X-type into a stationary …

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M
Unhappy

I remember this

I tried to drive to my gran's house on christmas day but junction 35 was shut and I had to go another way.

I think that it was a bit harsh on the bloke as even if he hadn't have texted it would have been difficult to anticipate a stationary car in the fast lane on the m1.

However texting while driving is extremely dangerous so perhaps it is a just decision.

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Pirate

Don't mean to be insensitive but

If your car is facing the wrong way on the fast lane of the M1 and you're on the hard shoulder, don't go back to get your phone.

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Unhappy

Non-starter.

I can just imagine his defence - "my wife/mother was using the phone, m'Lord." Should be just about impossible to prove otherwise unless they have CCTV footage of him texting at the wheel. Even a NuLabour Lord should be smart enough to work that one out!

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Anonymous Coward

re: I remember this

Eh? If you can't stop in time when a stationary object is blocking your way you are by definition going too fast for the conditions and are therefore driving dangerously.

In my book anyone texting while driving who causes a death by doing so should be given a sentence at least equal to the number of years the victim could have been expected to live had they not been mown down by some idiot who thinks that their social or business life is more important than the actual lives of others.

Not that I'm saying Lord whatsit /was/ doing that - that's for his chums* in the legal system to decide.

* ok /alleged/ chums.

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Take a txt, dear.

"Ahmed's wife and mother were in the car at the time"

Want to bet it turns out that wife or mother was responsible for sending the text?

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Stop

@M

> I think that it was a bit harsh on the bloke as even if he hadn't have texted it would have been

> difficult to anticipate a stationary car in the fast lane on the m1.

thats why most if not all cars come with some kind of windscreen so when you a driving down a road at 70mph you can slam the anchors on if you do come across something not anticipated

the only problem is if the driver is more focused on their lap texting

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, it is hard to anticipate a stationary car in the fast lane

That's why it's a really good idea to look where you're going, but it's amazing how many people don't bother. They just assume that the road will be clear ahead, and if they come round the corner at 65 mph and meet a stationary farm vehicle then that must be the farmer's fault, not theirs.

I see the URL for this story includes "lord_text_death". Perhaps they are going to sentence him and his descendants to use that title from now on ...

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Bronze badge
Anonymous Coward

Who sent the message?

Wife and mother were in car - who sent the text message? If it was him he deserves to be hit hard for his inexcusable behaviour, even if sending the message didn't cause the crash.

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Need more details.

Regardless of the text message, I find it hard to imagine a set of circumstances where someone driving in a manner that could be defined as safe manages to hit a stationary vehicle at sufficient speed to kill someone.

Now it may be that it was dark with no lights, or bad conditions with no lights and this partialy explains the accident but come on, does anyone really think he was not either going dangerously fast (and I say this as someone who speeds) or paying far far too little attention.

- - -

As to saying his mother / wife sent the message. I'm not so sure, their is a risk that a decent prosecution could show the language used matches the Lord's but not that of the other passengers. Or that the content makes it obvious it was from him.

If they falsely use that defence it will not stop the Lord being prosecuted for dangerous driving (it will just decrease severity) and if they get caught someone else will get prison time as well as the Lord (who will also have lied in court under oath).

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A bit of evidence

I think that if there was no skid marks prior to the impact at the accident site, this combined with the text might show that the driver was negligent. Just a thought .

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Much ado

Nowhere does it say that the person who owns the phone must be the one who sends a text message. Given the other occupants in the car, that's some pretty tenuous evidence to hang a case on. Not to mention the message was sent 3 minutes before the accident.

He was probably much more distracted by having his wife AND his mother in the car with him at the same time, both of whom probably insisted that he look at them when he talk, or something.

That said, if he hit something on the M1, with its huge clear lines of sight, then he's a right incompetent driver and should be locked away for the safety of others. Of course, if the UK did that, the prisons would be full and roads mostly empty.

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Silver badge

Even if he was not texting ...

... how many people did not crash into the Audi?

http://www.darwinawards.com/darwin/darwin2003-15.html

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Go

3 minutes

i agree that anything that distracts you while driving is wrong.

But, if he slammed into the car after using his phone three minutes before, that'd put him 3.5 miles away (probably more) when he finished texting. Does that really mean he caused the death by driving dangerously? Was he still driving dangerously when by the time he'd covered those 3.5 miles after finishing his text? And if not, does that mean the crash was an accident and not the result of dangerous driving necessarily?

It's probably lucky that the two people that survived weren't still in the car as I'm sure your supposed to do if you breakdown in the fast lane.

Here's another idea. If Lord Ahmed wasn't driving dangerously at the time of the collision as he'd finished texting by then, surely the guy that was driving the car that was facing the wrong way in the fast lane caused his own death by driving dangerously, losing control of the vehicle and then returning to the car?

I think I need to stop thinking about this and go home now.

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Stop

Hold your horses

We've not heard the evidence yet, it's still to go to court !

This guy is innocent until proven guilty. As Matt above said, he might well say someone else did the texting for him.

What I'd like to know is how come it took SO long - 11 months, to get to court when there was a death ? Was there some lobbying behind the scenes?

If he is guilty, the judge will be lenient. They look after their own.

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Stop

the 3 minutes thing so many peole seem hung up on..

It's 3 minutes between sending text and calling emergency services. Give him a minute or two for getting free of seatbet and airbag, and let's assume he checked the car he'd hit for occupants (although I could be allowing for too much humanity) then 3 minutes doesn't sound like too long between looking up from a phone and seeing a stationary car 10 metres ahead, to calling 999.

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Stop

Darwin shoo-in

>"Its driver and passenger had got safely to the hard shoulder but the driver, 28-year old Martyn Gombar, returned to the vehicle to get his mobile just before the car was hit."

He who values his mobile above his life will soon have neither. And those of us who remain in the gene pool are all the winners.

Stop sign, because that's what you're supposed to do when you're driving and there's a solid object in the road in front of you.

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Stop

Re: 3 minutes

"if he slammed into the car after using his phone three minutes before"

Read the article again. It was three minutes between the text message and the call to the emergency services. This puts the text message and the actual crash much closer together.

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Unhappy

@3 minutes

I think you'll find that because he phoned 3 minutes after the text, does NOT mean he was 3.5 miles away.

Sequence of events (possibly!):

txt..txt..txt...crash....get airbag out of your face....check wife is okay....check mother is okay...get your fat ass out the car (he does have a fat ass)....walk over to other car....call for ambulance.

Quite possible he was texting as he had the accident.

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Thumb Down

3 minutes before he called the emergency services

which means he likely did not call them right after the accident, takes a minute or 3 to get out of a smashed car (I've known a few people involved in accidents) which means it is likely he was texting within enough distance that he did not leave enough space to manuever.

Also going back for a phone??? was it made of diamonds and platinum?

call the cops from one of the roadside phones, wait till your car gets towed, then recover the phone.

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@ Even if he was not texting ..

" how many people did not crash into the Audi?"

Exactly! Three people, (probably shocked), had to unbelt, cross the carriageway, and one went back to the Audi, possibly after dithering over whether or not to try and retrieve his phone. How long did that take? Two or three minutes?

How likely is it that Lord Ahmed's car was the first in the fast lane to encounter the stationary Audi?

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Paris Hilton

Who'd expect to see an Audi parked in the fast lane the wrong way?

Whether he was texting or not, on motorways the brain goes into a disbelief mode that the car up ahead is

a) Stopped

b) Pointing the wrong way

c) a + b + in the fast lane

I remember tootling up the M6 near carlisle one night around midnight. There was bugger all else on the road and I was cruising at around 80'ish. I was just slipping past one of those middle lane hogging morons and about to gently slide back over to the slow lane.

Suddenly just about 75yds in front I realised there was a bloody car straddling the fast and middle lanes (no lights) and folk dawdling around. I just missed the bugger and the occupants by inches, fish tailed my car for around 100yds afterwards and nearly soiled my self (eight times).

I'm a biker and pride myself on defensive driving and observation and knowing the police roadcraft book pretty well. But that night I was caught way off guard.

Paris....because I'm sure she'd never have a seepage problem under any circumstances.

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Re Need More Details

I quite agree that he should have been able to see a stationary car in the fast lane, and stop in time or swerve around it, like everybody else managed to do.

But it will be impossible to prove who sent the text unless he actually admits it. You say the style of text or the content of the message will prove who sent it. It may show who composed the text certainly, but not who was actually holding the phone, typing it in, and sending it. He could easily have been dictating the message to his wife or mother. So far at least, it's not illegal to actually talk to other passengers in the car.

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Silver badge

I know which car I would prefer

In the event of a high speed crash the Jag is obviously superior.

Lord Ahmed's inability to avoid the Audi may have been due to the fact that there was too much traffic in the other lanes to be able to move over in time but even if the accident was his fault, the death was at least partly the fault of the victim in going back to his car, the Darwin effect is not to be taken lightly.

The Lord has additional mitigating circumstances in as much as having both his wife and mother-in-law in the car together on Christmas day and presumably late on the way to relatives would normally be enough of a distraction to driving for any man.

However, since he is a peer and supposed to be an example to us all, hang him!

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Stop

Empty Motorways

So, if this accident happened at night. There is the implication that the road was pretty empty (especially being Christmas day). So why did he not swerve? Try to avoid the collision?

All kinds of rubbish gets dropped onto the motorways. Falling off the back of lorries, or roof racks spilling their contents, or exhausts dropping off. It is natural to be watching for this kind of stuff.

Personally, I hope he is made a high profile example of how ****ing stupid it is to be texting while driving. People need to learn that no message is that important to risk killing someone.

Also - if he had "wife and mother" in the car - why did THEY not see the car in the road ahead? How can three sets of eyes in a car not see someone pointing the wrong way in the lane ahead?

(Rant caused by the sheer volume of idiots I still see on the roads with a mobile phone clamped to their heads. The scariest is when I see a driver of a 4x4 behind me on his phone...)

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Day or night?

The exact time of day makes a big difference. A red car in clear conditions in the middle of the day and it will be difficult to get out of. Night time, parked at an angle shielding reflective light surfaces and you will be lucky if you spot it in time.

Maybe he thought he was doing the responsible thing, obviously not a good idea, but I know I would try and call someone to warn them that I had left my car in the fast lane of the M1.

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@ BillyBoy

Like all automobiles manufactured in the last decade or two that I am aware of, an X-type Jaguar will have anti-lock (aka anti-skid) brakes. The Jag could have been doing a full panic brake just prior to the accident without necessarily leaving skid marks.

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Anonymous Coward

@M

"...the only problem is if the driver is more focused on their lap texting..."

the irony being that since the ban on speaking on a mobile phone while driving [mostly harmless] came into effect, more people are resorting to texting while driving [mostly dangerous], so they can keep the phone out of sight.

while on the subject of motoring matters, something that's niggled me for a while now:

given that speaking on a mobile phone or [in one or two celebrated cases] even eating an apple or a chocolate bar while in the car is deemed to be 'driving without due care and attention', how is it that it's allowed to put giant billboards featuring naked and semi-naked women [wonderbra, opium perfume etc etc] alongside roads where their intended effect is to grab the attention of passing motorists? is that not incitement to commit dangerous driving - or do safety issues go out the window when there are big advertising bucks to extract tax revenue from?

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Mat

This one time..

on the M1. I was driving home from work. I was in lane 1 doing about 70 mph. Coming towards me (relatively) was a potted plant. I thought "Crikey - What's that doing there?" I swerved to avoid it and then saw a three seat sofa and a double bed meandering from the hard shoulder to lane 3 and back again – After I managed to convince myself I had not been magically transferred into a game of Super Mario Kart.

I managed to avoid all three items and the protagonist was identified - A furniture van had shed its load. It was the most surreal moment of my life!

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Silver badge

Re: Need more details.

It could be that the person killed was not in the car, he had gone back to retrieve his mobile phone. Unlike a previous poster I won't refrain from being insensitive - what a great storming tosspot. As such he could have been leaning in to the car through opened door / window or walking round the back of it and the speed of the other car at impact need not be so great for the accident to have been fatal. He most likely was not cocooned inside.

One other point. It's not the fast lane, it's the outside or offside lane.

That the other driver had gone to retrieve his mobile would indicate there was little traffic about, even if, as it appears, he was a complete idiot. As such Ahmed should not have been in the outside lane for any other reason than he's driving a jag and he didn't want his prick to shrink, which I understand is what happens to drivers of big cars when they use the inside lanes(*). This is not a good reason to be in the outside lane, even if his prick is so small already that it would otherwise disappear inside, he should also be done for incorrect road use.

(*) Any other explanation of this behaviour would be welcome.

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Bronze badge

Stopping Distance

It's stepping on dangerous legal grounds to comment on the particular merits of this case, but for those know-it-alls who post breezily about stopping in time, bear in mind that the official stopping distance from 70MPH, including reaction time, according to the Highway Code is 96 metres or the length of a football pitch. That's a little over three seconds travelling at that speed. How many people leave a 100 metre gap or over three seconds to the next car given the crowded state of our motorways. If you are unsighted by a vehicle in front, or it's dark and there's an obstruction in the road, then this sort of thing can happen frighteningly fast. So beware, and don't get complacent. Anybody could get caught out.

That's a completely different issue to texting - that's up to the courts to decide.

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Anonymous Coward

@M

"I think that it was a bit harsh on the bloke as even if he hadn't have texted it would have been difficult to anticipate a stationary car in the fast lane on the m1."

It's not about anticipating a stationary vehicle, it's about observation. He needs to look out the windscreen and respond to what he actually sees. It's not about prediction. Looking out through the windscreen and noticing the cars were slowing down, by either seeing their brake lights applied, noticing the change in perspective as the vehicle your driving catches up with the other.

The faster your car catches up on the car in front, the perspective changes more rapidly and you can see the distance between you reducing.

It's not an accident, in that there was nothing he could do about it, he should have been looking out the windscreen, concentrating on his driving and this would not have happened.

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Fast Lane

No such thing

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Bronze badge

X-Type stopping distance...

about 41m going at 60mph. So, call it 60m going at 70mph, and add on a sluggish 0.6s reaction time.

That's 2.5s to stop (actually it's less, because you're decelerating as you go).

What's the next calculation :)

P.s. who drives on a motorway without looking at what's 2.5s ahead?

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Bronze badge
Stop

So many errors...

This guy hit a stationary object.

It was Christmas day so the M1 would have been almost completely empty - hence the fact that the other driver fealt that it was safe enough to cross three lanes, twice, just to retrieve his phone.

With regard to the phone, the correlation is with the last text that was SENT. Reasonable enought to asume that he then got a reply, or was in the middle of texting someone else. In any case, as others have pointed out, three minutes is not long to get your wits together enough to phone the police after you have just killed someone.

With regards to ABS - on a dry surface, it is normal to see a series of very short skid marks: the sensor system works by detecting when the wheel has stopped rotating, or is turning much more slowly than the other wheels. At this point a skid is in progress, and only then does the brake get released, briefly. This actually makes things much more reliable, as the driver cannot reasonably claim to have lifted off himself.

The idiot should surely be hung drawn and quartered for this.

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Jon

should have seen its

I bet many of the "Should have seen its" would have equally crashed.

1) You are not expecting a car the wrong way in outside lane so your reaction time is increased due to the internal monlogue of WTF.

2) Perhaps it is dark so hard to see.

3)I always thought you leave a 2second gap to car in front. The highway code says 2seconds is the thinking time to activate the breaks. This seems to assume that the further 76m or so you and the car in front are breaking at the same rate. So you leave a space not to hit the car in front, not a space large enough to stop in (96m)

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Boffin

How do you hit a stationary object?

Here's one possible way, your driving along in the left hand lane at night without any overhead lighting. You are travelling at 31 m/s and approaching a couple of lorries, on a long right hand bend. You move into the middle lane to overtake the lorries, but just as you are about to pass them, the nearest lorry decides to overtake the furthest lorry - obviously without any warning because we all know lorry indicators don't work. He moves into the moves into the third lane to overtake the lorry. As he is passing the lorry, he sees something odd reflecting in his lights, realizes its a car, can't swerve for fear of being struck by the lorry so applies the brakes but not soon enough to avoid hitting the car at (say) 13 m/s (30mph) - plenty enough speed to kill the unbelted driver of the red car.

Skid marks? - why do people expect there to be skid marks at any/all accident scenes, absence of skid marks doesn't indicated absence of braking, it doesn't even indicate absence of skidding, it only indicates absence of skid marks. Who here had to do an emergency stop as part of their driving test? - who left skidmarks? (bearing in mind it would earn you a failure, if you skidded, as it wouldn't have been a controlled stop).

As for looking where you are going - large segments of the UK motorway system are unlit (It's a while since I travelled on the M1 so I couldn't say for certain). Looking where you are going is all well and good, but in the dark you can only see as far as your lights illuminate. Typically dipped lights will illuminate reflective objects 100-200 metres away (say 3-6 seconds away), assuming no bends or other obstructions, such as large vehicles. Non-reflective objects (such as cars facing the wrong way), will be illuminated up 40-50 metres (1.3-1.6 seconds at 31m/s). Dipped headlamps aren't designed to illuminate non-reflective obstructions on motorways at motorway speeds - sure you can be a menace to all other road users and use your full beams the whole time (virtually always unnecessarily). Additionally, it is those who look where they are going the whole time who are the true menace, I typically spend 5-10% of my time checking my mirrors (when I am fully alert) and making myself aware of the traffic around as well as in front of me.

Was the Audi driver an idiot going back to his car? He'd just (presumably) lost control and spun it, so probably was in shock and wasn't thinking clearly.

Other people managed to avoid it? were there other people in the right hand lane that night - it is entirely plausible that no-one else was in the lane, after all it is supposed to be the least used lane. Even if others managed to avoid it, only means it was possible to avoid - it doesn't mean that it was reasonable to expect everyone to avoid it, some people get lucky others don't - in fact those in front of him have a clearer view of the road by virtue that they don't have themselves blocking their view of the road ahead - all it takes is for him to be panicked by the car in front suddenly swerving - or perhaps he blinked at the wrong time or checked his mirrors at the wrong time. Also, just because he hit the car doesn't mean he didn't take evasive action - in fact the effect clipping the stationary car would likely be much more devastating than hitting it full on.

I am not even going to touch the mobile phone point, I think we all know how tenuous that evidence is.

Yes there are lots (and lots (and lots)) of people who perpetually drive too fast, too close and are distracted by their phones. However, there is nothing that has been printed so far to indicate that this was the case.

I'm with the AC who posted at 17.47 - What I'd like to know is how come it took SO long - 11 months, to get to court when there was a death ? Was there some lobbying behind the scenes?

Certainly it is reasonable that being so profile, he can't avoid prosecution forever (even if it wouldn't normally be countenanced) - however I would be extremely surprised it it goes very far. All that I see happening is his name being cleared (whilst simultaneously mudded).

BTW, I use m/s for speed because MPH only tells you how long it takes to get somewhere - I don't see how anyone can comprehend the speed of 70 MPH (except maybe if they have travelled that fast on a motorbike or skis or had to try and control a car that was out of control at that sort of speed). Travelling safely on a motorway at 70 MPH in a nice warm safe car that is totally under your control (or so you believe), gives you absolutely no idea of the speed you are travelling at. 31 metres per second on the other hand is quite easy to comprehend - and gives you an idea of how truly fast it is - i.e. a large space covered in a very short time.

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@Jon

>2) Perhaps it is dark so hard to see.

So he should have been driving slower, unless you advocate driving blindly into where you can't see. Not being able to see in the dark is no different than not being able to see in fog, you should adjust your speed accordingly. You should always have enough space to stop within the distrance of visibility plus a bit more for reaction time.

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