On January 8th this year, a driver smashed into the level crossing barriers at Littlehaven station in Horsham. The story was covered by the BBC here.
Drivers have been urged not to jump red lights at level crossings after a vehicle crashed into a gate near a railway station in Horsham. The road was closed for 10 hours and trains were disrupted after the crash near Littlehaven station on Saturday. Network Rail said a vehicle passed through level crossing red lights and hit a gate while it was closing. British Transport Police said a 50-year-old man from Horsham was arrested and bailed until March.
That same driver has now appeared before Crawley magistrates court. The West Sussex County Times has a report (not available online), which appeared in the 21st April edition.
A father of four at the wheel of a Kia people carrier smashed through the level crossing gates as they were closing in Rusper Road near Horsham’s Littlehaven station, a court heard. Debris from one of the shattered gates littered the railway track and services had to be halted after the incident on January 8th. Garry Bates, aged 49, of Ropeland Way, Horsham, pleaded guilty at Crawley magistrates court to dangerous driving, failing to stop after an accident in which damage was done to property, and failing to comply with a stop sign at the crossing. Prosecutor Kelly Murror said: “The gates were in process of closing when the black people carrier went across. It avoided the leading gate, but hit the rear trailing gate.” The barrier was wrecked by the impact and pieces of it were lying across the railway track. The crossing keeper immediately contacted control to stop all services.
Further on in the article, we have the offending driver’s explanation, attempted mitigation, and special pleading.
Robin Loof, defending, said the people carrier had been specially modified to accommodate a disabled child. “My client was not speeding as he approached the crossing and he slowed down as he reached it. He recalls the lights were at amber and he continued forward. It was not a prolonged period of dangerous driving. Mr Bates will no doubt pay a very high price for it. If he loses his licence it will have catastrophic consequences for the whole family.”
Here is a video of the crossing in question, as a train approaches. As you watch it, bear in mind the sentence in bold above.
There are eight seconds between the amber light switching to red, and the gates closing. If it is indeed true that ‘the lights were at amber’ as Mr Bates ‘continued forward’ then it will obviously have taken him at least eight seconds to travel from the stop line before striking the gate. So, if this implausible account is to be believed, he certainly wasn’t speeding – in fact, he would have been travelling at less than walking speed.
I hope the magistrates have seen the timings for this crossing before they consider lending any credence to Mr Bates’ ludicrous claim that he advanced onto the crossing while the lights were at amber – the obvious reality is that he drove onto the crossing when the lights were red, and when they had been red for some considerable time. That is the only way he could have ended up destroying the gates as they were closing.
The case is going to be considered at Lewes Crown Court at a later date. I am interested to see whether any leniency will be applied to Mr Bates in the light of his special pleading regarding his disabled child, and also whether his gigantic fib is accepted.
I also note, in passing, that dangerous driving of this kind is probably a consequence of the way that obedience to traffic signals at ‘ordinary’ junctions is almost totally unenforced. On my regular journeys across Horsham, I find that at nearly every junction, a driver will be chancing it through a red light, largely because they can get away with it. Mr Bates clearly extended this logic to a railway – he felt that he could chance it through a red light at a level crossing in just the same way that countless other drivers chance their way through red traffic signals. He was caught out.