A pensioner who had been driving for just three months caused a fatal crash as he headed for a day out at the coast with his disabled wife, a court heard today (Tuesday).
David McWilliam only decided to take up driving after retiring from his job as a bookbinder because he wanted to go on trips with his wife Pat.
He passed his test and under the Mobility car scheme he acquired a Ford B-Max people carrier converted to take her wheelchair.
Lincoln Crown Court was told that McWilliam, despite his advanced years, was an inexperienced motorist and in December 2013 as he headed along the A52 to Skegness his driving became increasingly erratic.
Mark van der Zwart, prosecuting, said McWilliam alternately accelerated and then braked as he drove in a line of traffic and his car moved to and fro between the verge and the centre white line.
Then, shortly after overtaking a bus, McWilliam went onto the grass verge for a 50-yard stretch of road before swerving back onto the carriageway and into the opposite lane where he collided with an oncoming vehicle.
Jean Holland, 80, a front-seat passenger in the other car suffered fatal injuries. Her long-term partner Keith Finney, who was driving, received a number of injuries including a fractured sternum.
The couple were on their way to a celebration lunch to mark Mr Finney’s 82nd birthday.
Mr Van der Zwart said the fatal collision was entirely due to McWilliam’s driving although he initially tried to claim that it was caused by mud on the road.
He said: “Mr Finney was completely blameless in this incident. It is plain that after travelling along the grass verge the defendant sought to return the wheels onto the road. He did that but went into the opposite carriageway and then collided with the oncoming vehicle.
“There was an extensive examination of the scene and of both vehicles. It is plain that there was no other explanation or cause for this collision other than the driving of this defendant.
“Despite his age he was a very inexperienced driver. He had taken his driving test in June 2013. He had owned the vehicle for only three to four months. It was the first vehicle he had owned.”
Jean Holland, a mum and grandmother of six, still worked part-time in a local charity shop in Skegness. The court was told her family were devastated by what happened.
Jean Holland’s son Michael Holland said: “She was vibrant and full of energy. She was one of the kindest and most caring people you could ever wish to meet.
“She had so much to live for. She was the matriarch and heart and soul of our family. There is a never-ending emptiness in our hearts. Losing her in this way has left us all completely devastated.”
McWilliam, 68, of Braunstone, Leicester, admitted causing death by dangerous driving as a result of the incident at Wrangle, on December 4, 2013.
He was given a two year jail sentence suspended for two-years with 200 hours of unpaid work.
Recorder Nicholas Syfret QC banned him from driving for 10 years and ordered him to pass an extended retest before he can drive again.
In passing sentence Recorder Syfret said: “The cause of this accident was the sheer inexperience of the driver. He had only held a driving licence for a very brief period and had very limited driving experience.”
Richard Dawson, defending, said McWilliam was an honest and decent man who had never been in trouble before.
“His lack of experience affected him on that day.
“This is a man who will never drive again.
“It is plain the very real regret and remorse he feels for the part he played in these events. This is a blight on his character and is something that will stay with him for the rest of his life.”