Driver jailed for rail barrier crash
A DRINK-driver who narrowly avoided causing a major rail accident after smashing through barriers at a level crossing has been jailed for ten months.Mark Jeffries was fiddling with his car radio when he broke through a barrier near Saxmundham station and after stopping briefly on the line he then drove through the opposite barrier, Ipswich Crown Court heard yesterday.
A DRINK-driver who narrowly avoided causing a major rail accident after smashing through barriers at a level crossing has been jailed for ten months.
Mark Jeffries was fiddling with his car radio when he broke through a barrier near Saxmundham station and after stopping briefly on the line he then drove through the opposite barrier, Ipswich Crown Court heard yesterday
The oncoming 6.12pm Lowestoft to Ipswich train was only feet away as he sped off and it was only because the train driver had been concerned about a stray dog on the platform that the train was not travelling faster, said Michael Crimp prosecuting.
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Jeffries, 40, of Meadow Walk, Benhall had admitted drink-driving, dangerous driving and endangering the safety of a train and was committed to the crown court for sentence by Lowestoft magistrates.
Jailing Jefferies for ten months, Judge John Devaux said he had caused great inconvenience to railway staff and the travelling public. In addition to the jail sentence he banned Jefferies from driving for three years after which he must taken an extended driving retest.
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Mr Crimp told the court that Jefferies was driving home on Good Friday
after drinking four pints of lager at a Saxmundham pub when he approached a level crossing by the town's railway station at about 7pm.
He did not notice the flashing lights and had smashed through the crossing
barrier. Fortunately the train driver had been approaching the crossing at 15mph rather than the usual 25mph because he was worried about a dog on the platform.
The train had come to a stop with about 20 feet between the front of the train and the side of the car. When the driver saw Jefferies his hands were clutching the steering wheel and he was staring straight ahead.
As Jefferies drove off through the second barrier the number plate on his car fell off enabling the police to track him down.
When police arrested him at his home they took a breath sample which showed an alcohol level of 82mcgs in 100mls of breath The legal limit is 35.
Jefferies told officers that that he had failed to notice the flashing warning lights and the barrier because he had been fiddling with his radio.
Mr Crimp said Jefferies had caused £2,000 damage to the barriers and alternative travel arrangements had to be made for passengers on the train.
In addition the train driver had a day off sick after the incident and five further trains had been delayed by up to an hour.
Paul Roach for Jefferies accepted that the public had been put in "great danger". However he said that happily no-one had been injured as a result of his client's actions.
He said Jefferies, who had been convicted of drink-driving in 1990, was "deeply ashamed" of what he had done.
He said that after accidentally going through the first barrier Jefferies had made matters worse by deliberately driving through the second barrier.