A ‘reckless’ elderly motorist whose eyesight was so bad he couldn’t read a number plate from 10 feet away killed a cyclist by smashing into him in broad daylight, a court heard.
Peter Gardner, 82, had such poor vision he shouldn’t have been driving when he collided into James Tassell, 70, on a country lane in Andover, Hampshire, on July 23 last year.
Mr Tassell, described as a ‘loving grandfather’, was out cycling at 10am on a clear summer day when the pensioner’s silver Vauxhall Vectra ploughed into the back of him – catapulting him six feet in the air.
In order to pass a driving test, motorists must be able to read a number plate 20 metres (65ft) away – but an eyesight test after the smash showed Gardner could only read a plate three metres (9ft 10ins) away.
A court also heard the retired rail worker had previously been warned by an optician he may be developing cataracts over 18 months before the crash – but had failed to arrange a follow-up appointment.
Peter Gardner, 82, of Whitchurch, Hampshire, outside Salisbury Law Courts, where he was jailed for six months for causing death by careless driving, as well as a three-year driving ban
James Tassell, 70, described as a loving husband, father and grandfather, was cycling on July 23 last year in Andover, Hampshire, when Gardner’s Vauxhall Vestra careered into him. Sadly, Mr Tassell died five days later
Now, Gardner has been jailed for six months as Mr Tassell’s devastated family slammed him for ‘choosing to drive with terrible eyesight’.
Mr Tassell, known as Jim, from Andover, suffered traumatic injuries in the crash and was airlifted to Southampton General Hospital but sadly died five days later.
At Salisbury Crown Court, prosecutor Berenice Mulvanny said: ‘Mr Gardner was driving in the same direction as Mr Tassell and collided with him from the rear.
‘Witnesses described Mr Tassell being catapulted two metres into the air. All the witnesses said Jim could be seen.’
The court heard that the driver behind Gardner stopped to give Mr Tassell first aid, and Gardner said to him Mr Tassell was ‘in the shadows’ and that he ‘didn’t see him’.
Ms Mulvanny went on: ‘Mr Gardner could only read registration plates from three metres as opposed to the regulated 20 metres.
‘A field impairment test was carried out and Mr Gardner was regarded as impaired. His eyesight was so poor he shouldn’t have been driving.’
At Salisbury Law Court, it was heard that Gardner’s eyesight was so bad he could only read number plates from ten feet away and he had previously been warned by an optician he may have cataracts
Mr Tassell was approaching his 50th wedding anniversary with wife Stephanie, who described her husband as ‘loving’ and ‘kind’.
In her victim impact statement, Mrs Tassell criticised Gardner. She said: ‘[He was] a true gentleman – you took that same man away when you got behind the wheel of the car.
‘But for your arrogance and selfishness Jim would still be with us now. For what you did to me and my family I will never forgive you.’
Salisbury Crown Court heard that Gardner had previously had an opticians appointment in August 2019 where he was told that he may be developing cataracts and to come back in 12 months – which he did not arrange.
Mr Tassell’s son, Ben, said that Mr Gardner had robbed ‘my mum of her husband and of her world’.
His daughter, Emma, said: ‘It is abundantly clear that you should not have been behind the wheel of a car. You have robbed my children of the best grandad.’
Barrister Ian Bridge, defending Gardner, said his client worried each day about the harm he had caused to the Tassell family and had been brought to tears on some occasions.
Mr Bridge said: ‘I can’t stress enough how much Mr Gardner is upset by what he has done
‘He did not believe, living alone and isolated, that his eyesight was as bad as he now completely accepts it is. He now accepts that he should have realised, but he didn’t. He just hopes the court accepts that it wasn’t a deliberate decision.’
Passing sentence, Judge Andrew Barnett said there was nothing that cyclist Mr Tassel was doing wrong at the time of the accident and criticised Gardner’s ‘recklessness and foolishness’.
Mr Tassell’s daughter Emma (left) and son Ben (right, in checked shirt) attended Salisbury Law Court to see Gardner sentenced over the death of their father
‘Conditions were fine, the sun was out, but there was nothing significantly interfering with your vision other than the fact your eyesight was deteriorating,’ said the judge.
‘I am told that you hadn’t noticed any deterioration of your eyesight. I find it hard to believe you had not realised as you had continued to drive to the period of the collision.
‘It must have been obvious to you that you were not seeing things as you should.
‘You have brought devastation, misery and despair upon the Tassell family.
‘I have heard from Jim’s widow and two children – who you have robbed of their husband and father – tearing a hole in their family.
‘You, and you alone, have to live with that responsibility for the rest of your life.’
Gardner, of Whitchurch, Hampshire, admitted death by careless driving. He was sentenced to six months in prison and disqualified from driving for three years and three months.
Judge Barnett added: ‘I trust you will, in practical terms, never drive again.’