“I cannot be sure she was driving carelessly but I do find her responsible from a civil point of view,” said Judge Kevin P Kilrane prior to dismissing a case of careless driving against Katherine Fuller.
Last week’s sitting of Carrick-on-Shannon District Court heard Ms Fuller was travelling on the Cootehall to Carrick-on-Shannon road when the Opel Astra she was driving was involved in an accident with another car in the townland of Cleaheen.
Gda Shortt gave evidence of attending the scene of a two car collision stating the accident occurred on a “narrow road.”
He added, “On the turn where the collision occurred it widens. The tarred section of the road is still narrow enough.”
Under cross-examination from defending solicitor Peter Collins, Gda Shortt said, “Two cars can pass but you need to be careful.”
Gda Shortt read from a statement given to Gardaí by Ms Fuller, 4 Glencairn Rise, The Gallops, Leopardstown, Dublin 18 in which she stated on the morning of April 17, 2017 she was travelling to Carrick-on-Shannon with her son in the rear of the car.
She said as she was approaching a dangerous bend she reduced her speed to 30kph adding, “In my opinion the (other) car was speeding excessively for this road. I saw him yank his steering wheel sharp to the left.”
After the collision she said her head hit the window and with the car left stationary in the middle of the road she added, “I was terrified another car would come and hit the side of the car the child was in.”
Ms Fuller said ambulance personnel spoke to her through the window of her car and she was eventually released from the vehicle when two people who arrived at the scene “yanked the door open.”
Cian Mooney, who was driving the other car involved in the accident told the Court on the day in question he was driving from his home in Finglas to his family’s holiday home in Cootehall.
Recalling the moments before the accident Mr Mooney said, “I braked to stop, the car was as tight to the embankment as it could be. She was in the process of starting to cut the corner when I first saw her.”
Mr Mooney said his car was written-off as a result of the accident and said he suffered an injury to his lower back.
Examining sketch maps drawn in the aftermath of the accident Mr Collins remarked, “If the two wings hit each other, her car seems able to swing around and yours barely moves.”
In reply Mr Mooney stated, “Exactly. If I was going so fast how did I manage to get back to the correct side as tight to the bend as you can be.”
Mr Collins added, “She is saying the two of you collided right front to right front. What stopped you spinning around was the ditch.”
When asked what speed he was travelling at Mr Mooney said he was driving at 40kph and estimated the defendant was driving at a speed of 70-80kph.
Evidence was also given by Mr Mooney’s girlfriend, Kelly Mahony who was a passenger in his car at the time of the accident.
Ms Mahony recalled, “I thought easily we could have gone past each other but she was cutting the corner.
“I don’t think she was speeding but it was too fast for that road. I put my hands up to my eyes and we were hit.”
Giving evidence Ms Fuller stated she had been staying with her sister who lives close to where the accident occurred.
She recalled that she saw the driver coming via a mirror that was placed on the side of the road noting, “He overshot the corner ever so slightly.
“There is enough for two cars to go by carefully and safely. It shunted my car back maybe half a metre before dragging me horizontal.”
She added, “I was not doing the speed Mr Mooney said I was doing. I swear on my child’s life.”
Having heard the evidence Judge Kilrane said, “I must distinguish between a civil case and a criminal case of careless driving.”
He added, “I believe both drivers were not driving too fast, probably at the same speed, up to 50kph.
“Looking at the debris and the photos, there is no debris on the Cootehall side of the accident. If Ms Fuller is correct one would expect to find some debris to be found on the Carrick side. If he struck and dragged her there would be debris on the Carrick side.”
Judge Kilrane noted, “There is a lot of debris on the other side. He was driven back in the accident. The rear of Mr Mooney’s car is tight against the hedge, it was driven backwards into that position.
“It is more likely it was an accident caused by Ms Fuller and not Mr Mooney.
“If she was in fear she had plenty of space to move into the gravel area.”
Judge Kilrane, who said he was “very influenced by the debris,” added, “I do not believe there was speed involved. I do believe Ms Fuller’s car was too far out on the roadway.”
Judge Kilrane ruled as outlined.