“I am satisfied, even on the defendant’s evidence, that he is guilty of the offence before the court,” said Judge Denis McLoughlin prior to imposing a conviction for careless driving and a fine of €300 against Kevin Maguire, 62 Mceoin Park, Longford who was also disqualified from driving for a period of two years.
The first witness in the case, Geraldine Griffith, said on October 30, 2018 she was travelling on the N4 in the direction of Carrick-on- Shannon from the Sligo side.
She recalled she had two children in the car on what was a fairly clear day.
Ms Griffith recalled seeing a tractor in the hard shoulder when she was suddenly hit on the side by a car at the Cootehall junction.
Describing the conditions on the day in question she said: “It was very dry and bright. The tractor was ahead on the left hand hard shoulder.
“I was driving along and then I was going into the back of the car that came out of nowhere.”
After the collision she recalled: “I was screaming at the kids to get out of the car. The airbags had come out and I was afraid it would go on fire. I ran over to the other car to see if he was ok.”
Continuing her evidence Ms Griffith said: “I hurt my thumb and hand. The children were fine. People came running out of the house of the wall that he went into, they were very good.”
Under cross-examination from defending solicitor Peter Collins, Ms Griffith said: “Yes, I went into the back of the car, it came out of nowhere. I hit the back rear side.”
When asked if she remembered seeing the car ahead of her before the crash, Ms Griffith replied: “No, it shot out of nowhere. It was to my left, it didn't fully get onto the road.”
When asked what speed she was travelling at when the accident occurred, Ms Griffith answered: “I was travelling below the speed limit I believe.
“When I stopped, the car behind stopped and asked what happened. The driver behind said they had no idea as well.”
Garda Carmel Byrne gave evidence saying at 2.15pm on the afternoon in question she was called to the scene of the accident at Ardcarne. She observed a car had hit a stone wall causing extensive damage to the front and rear of the car.
She breathalysed both drivers at the scene with the results said to be negative.
Under cross-examination from Mr Collins it was put to Garda Byrne that there must have been a severe impact.
In reply she said: “You would have to know the speed of the two cars to determine. That area is a 100kph zone.”
When asked by Mr Collins if Mr Maguire could have been travelling at a speed of 80kph when the impact occurred she replied:
“No, not that soon after turning on to the road.”
She added: “She could see the junction but a vehicle exited with the tractor possibly blocking the view.”
She expressed the view that if Mr Maguire had full control, “It would have been a full rear-ending rather than a partial rear-ending that resulted in the vehicle being spun.”
Giving evidence, Mr Maguire, who is a 30-year-old tiler, said he was travelling back to Longford and was turning left onto the N4 from Cootehall.
“Cars were coming from the right, I was indicating left,” he recalled.
Under cross-examination from Insp Frank Finn, Mr Maguire said he was travelling on his own at the time and acknowledged he was not fully licenced as he was in possession of only a provisional licence and did not have a fully qualified driver accompanying him.
He added that he was familiar with the road as he had been working in the area for two months at the time of the accident.
When asked by Insp Finn if he recalled seeing the tractor before he turned onto the main road, Mr Maguire replied: “No, I just saw the two cars coming. There was plenty of room to turn on to the road. She (Ms Griffith) got out of her car after and said she wasn’t looking.”
Recalling the moments before the impact he told the court: “When I looked in the mirror I saw the car wasn’t going to stop, I veered left and got clipped.”
Mr Maguire continued: “Obviously I didn’t have enough time (to avoid the collision) if I got hit. I did have enough time to exit the junction onto the main road.”
Having heard the evidence against Mr Maguire, Judge McLoughlin said: “I am satisfied the farmer (driving the tractor) was acting in a responsible manner in the hard shoulder and blocked Mr Maguire’s view.”
Judge McLoughlin added: “I don’t accept his explanation, but even on the basis of his explanation I would still convict.”
Outlining his client’s circumstances, Mr Collins said the defendant has no previous convictions for driving offences.
“If you were to disqualify him from driving he will lose his employment. He made an error. “This is the sort of offence that careless driving is for. I ask you to exercise your discretion and not disqualify the defendant.”
Finalising matters Judge McLoughlin said “there was no special reason put to the court” for the defendant to avoid a disqualification” from driving.
Mr Maguire was convicted of careless driving, fined €300 and disqualified from driving for two years.
Recognisance in the event of an appeal were fixed.