Lorry driver 'fell asleep' on A14

A LORRY driver who was seen driving erratically and swerving from one lane to another on the A14 before crashing into the central reservation may have fallen asleep at the wheel, a court has heard.

Jane Hunt

A LORRY driver who was seen driving erratically and swerving from one lane to another on the A14 before crashing into the central reservation may have fallen asleep at the wheel, a court has heard.

A passenger in a car following Julian Thorne's lorry along the westbound carriageway at Sproughton was so concerned at the way he was driving that she dialled 999 and gave a running commentary to police, Ipswich Crown Court was told.

“The lorry was swinging all over the road and nearly collided with two other vehicles,” said Patricia Doggett, prosecuting.


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She said that after drifting into the outside lane the lorry, which was travelling at about 60mph, would then drift back into the nearside lane throwing up stones from the edge of the carriageway as it did so.

“The passenger commented that she lost count how many times the vehicle drifted from lane to lane,” said Miss Doggett.

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As the lorry approached a slip road leading on to the A140, and while the car passenger was still on the phone to the police, the lorry crashed into the central reservation, ripping off a section of the crash barrier.

When police arrived at the crash scene shortly afterwards they tried to interview Thorne but were unable to do so because as he began to give his account he tilted his head back and showed the whites of his eyes.

“He was assessed as being unfit to drive at the scene and he was arrested,” said Miss Doggett.

A doctor was called to the police station and Thorne was required to provide a urine sample but this proved insufficient for analysis.

When Thorne was interviewed several weeks later he said he was unable to remember very much about the day in question and could not explain why the accident happened.

He mentioned to police that on the day of the accident he had fallen over and had a head injury but this was not noticed by officers at the scene, said Miss Doggett.

Thorne, 50, of Humber Doucy Lane, Ipswich, admitted dangerous driving on January 24 and was given a 36-week prison sentence suspended for two years. He was also banned from driving for three years and ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work in the community.

Sentencing him Judge Peter De Mille said, “As a driver of an HGV you have an extremely responsible job because you know that if you drive that vehicle dangerously absolute mayhem could follow.

“When there is an accident involving an HGV it is sheer good fortune that others aren't killed. It is your good fortune that no-one was killed on this occasion.”

“What you did it seems to me on the evidence was clearly to fall asleep. There is no evidence you suffered any head injury at all.”

Nicholas Cotter, for Thorne, said his client had been a lorry driver for more than 20 years and only had three points on his licence.

He said the cause of the accident had troubled Thorne greatly and at the police station the only answer he could give was that he might have fallen asleep.

However since then he had spoken to his 78-year-old mother who recalled him falling over while taking her to hospital on the day of the accident and receiving a blow to his head. “The only thing he can say is that it might have contributed to this incident,” said Mr Cotter.

He said Thorne had visited a doctor and had undergone tests for epilepsy which had proved negative.

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