Motorist fined after level crossing crash on Lowestoft to Ipswich line
A MOTORIST whose car was struck by a Lowestoft to Ipswich train on a level crossing has been fined �250 for careless driving.
Jonathan Dawson was behind the wheel of his BMW X5 with the radio on and a sun visor lowered and failed to notice red flashing lights and a siren which would have alerted him to the approaching train.
Although the East Suffolk Line train was only travelling at around 15mph when the driver braked, he was unable to avoid hitting Dawson's car, Ipswich Crown Court was told.
'Luckily no-one was injured,' said Godfried Duah, prosecuting.
Sentencing 46-year-old Dawson on Thursday, Judge David Goodin said the collision at the Lime Kiln crossing on Deben Road, Woodbridge, was caused by his 'momentary inattention'.
'It is a matter of fortune that you are standing here at all. You could have been killed or people on the train injured or worse.
'The consequences weren't devastating but were potentially very serious indeed,' said the judge.
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Dawson, of The Thoroughfare, Woodbridge, admitted careless driving on December 13 last year and in addition to being fined �250, he was ordered to pay �85 prosecution costs, a �15 victim surcharge and his licence was endorsed with four penalty points.
Following the hearing Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said the sentence on Dawson seemed lenient given the potential dangers of driving on to a level crossing with its warning lights on.
'I don't know all the details because I was not on court, so I don't want to say too much about the individual case but it does sound quite lenient.
'I think there does need to be a message that level crossings should be treated with great care,' she said.
A Network Rail spokesman said: 'All too often we see people putting their lives and the lives of others at risk at level crossings, either through deliberately ignoring safety warnings, complacency or sheer ignorance.
'We will continue to work with the police and local authorities to highlight the dangers of crossing misuse and hope that people will learn lessons from other people's mistakes.'
Dawson had denied an offence of dangerous driving and this plea was accepted by the prosecution after Dawson admitted careless driving.
Godfried Duah, prosecuting, said the crossing did not have barriers and when a train was approaching motorists were alerted by red flashing lights and sirens.
He said that following the collision Dawson had said he knew the crossing well as he used it daily to drive to a house he was building.
On the day in question Dawson had his car radio on and a sun visor was lowered and he didn't hear the warning siren or see the flashing lights.
Michael Bromley-Martin QC, for Dawson, said the crossing had been the subject of a report by the Rail Accident Investigation branch in July. 'These barrierless crossings are particularly dangerous. On that everyone agrees,' he said.
He said seven collisions had taken place at this particular crossing in the last ten years and was ninth in a list of 113 crossings which had been recommended for upgrading because of the number of accidents on it.
He said this didn't excuse Dawson's 'momentary loss of judgement' in crossing the junction when the red lights and siren were going.
However he said that an incline in the road combined with the lowered sun visor meant that Dawson hadn't seen the flashing warning lights and the siren had been inaudible because he had his radio on.
'He failed to appreciate in that moment he was unsighted and unable to hear and that is his error,' said Mr Bromley-Martin.
He said Dawson had a clean driving licence and all damage had been paid for by his insurers.
The Rail Accident Investigation Bureau did not carry out an investigation of the crash because it was a low-speed accident and, an official said: 'It was fairly obvious what happened.'
A spokeswoman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said dealing with distractions was one of the basic skills any driver should learn before passing their test.
She added: 'Although we cannot comment on specific cases, on this occasion it seems as if the driver was very fortunate to avoid serious injury.
'Level crossings are dangerous places and hopefully this case will serve as a warning to people that they should be used with great care.'