A 59-year-old Rooskey woman who drove the wrong way up the N4 Dromod-Rooskey bypass eventually colliding with two oncoming vehicles, was disqualified from driving for two years for dangerous driving.
Loretta Moran, Rooskey, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim faced summonses for dangerous driving and not having a valid NCT on display at Clooncolry, Dromod on April 21, last year.
She offered a guilty plea to a lesser charge of careless driving but Inspector Denis Harrington refused to accept her plea.
In his evidence, Sgt Tony Byrne said he attended the scene of a road traffic accident near Dromod on the date in question arriving at around 8.50pm.
He found that a Peugeot car driven by the defendant, had driven the wrong way up the dual carriageway.
Nearby was a Citreon facing in its correct direction, parked on the grass verge. This vehicle had sustained minor damage.
A third vehicle, a VW Passat, containing a woman and her teenage son, was also nearby. This vehicle had sustained “a good bit of damage” to the driver's side.
He noted the defendant's car had sustained substantial damage in the impact with the other two vehicles and added these collisions occurred approximately 500m from the Dromod roundabout.
The road had to be closed in order to allow emergency services to attend the scene and to facilitate removal of the damaged vehicles.
“At the time I didn't see the driver of the Peugeot (Ms Moran),” admitted Sgt Byrne. “There were two ambulances at the scene and she was in one of them. She was taken to Sligo University Hospital.”
Ms Moran made contact with gardai the following day and produced all her insurance and licence documentation through her solicitor.
The defendant declined to make a statement at that time.
Ms Moran told the court that she had been driving home from her daughter's house, which lies between Dromod and Mohill, when she entered the Dromod roundabout on the N4 bypass heading across to Dromod village and on to Rooskey.
She said how, as she was driving through the roundabout a “black saloon came through from the Dublin direction at speed.
“It didn't take cognisance that I was already on the roundabout and I had to take evasive action,” she added.
“It was clear to me there was going to be an accident and I veered to the left.”
She said this brought her onto the wrong lane of the N4, heading into oncoming traffic.
However, Ms Moran said that she continued driving, hugging the centre barrier, driving slowly and with her lights on, as she looked for a place to turn.
Following the accident she had to be helped out of the car and was taken to hospital.
“I was insured and fully licenced. I have been driving since I was 21 and had nothing like this happen before,” she said, adding that she looked after her grandchildren and her licence was “essential.”
Ms Moran said she was familiar with the road from her daughter's home to her home in Rooskey but said she “didn't use the N4 motorway.”
“I didn't know what to do (when I ended up on the wrong side of the road),” she admitted, adding that she thought she could minimise risk by reducing her speed and hugging the centre barrier of the road.
Ms Moran's barrister, Mr Flynn, described the incident as “an unfortunate set of circumstances.”
“There was no element of speed in this case and there was nothing untoward with the vehicle,” he said.
“There is no evidence of erratic driving and no previous convictions prior to this.”
He said when she entered the wrong side of the road “there was no place for Ms Moran to pull in.”
“I am not trying to condone anyone's conduct in driving against traffic but it could have been a whole lot worse only for Ms Moran driving slowly,” he said.
Judge Kevin P Kilrane noted the defendant had given an explanation as to how she came to be driving on the incorrect side of the road.
“She claims a car came into the roundabout and didn't stop, forcing her to go left onto the wrong side of the carriageway.
“I can't follow the logic at all in this. I can't see how this could take place.”
He added there is good visibility for 100 yards in each direction on Ms Moran's approach to the roundabout and said it is “difficult to see how she didn't see this (black) car coming at such speed” well in advance of the roundabout.
Even when she ended up on the wrong side of the road, Judge Kilrane said he could not understand why Ms Moran continued to drive onwards when this clearly put her vehicle head-on against traffic approaching in the fast lane.
“It is the mercy of god that someone wasn't killed,” he said describing this case as “dangerous driving at its highest level.”
He then convicted her of dangerous driving and fined her €300. He also disqualified her from driving for two years. The charge of having no valid NCT on display was struck out.
Recognisances were fixed in the event of an appeal.