Danger driver left motorist in a coma when he 'took a gamble' and sped through a red light

A danger driver who had his licence back for just five days left a retired bus driver on a life support machine when he took a ‘gamble’ and went through a red light.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 19 July, 2019, 15:11
The scene of the collision.

Mark French, 25, who had previously been convicted of dangerous driving and had just passed an extended test to be allowed back on the roads, crashed his Skoda Fabia into John Brown's Ford Focus at speed.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the force of the collision, at the junction of Ryhope Road and The Cedars in Sunderland, left the pensioner's car flipped onto its roof and French's vehicle smashed into pedestrian railings.

The retired driver, who had been on a shopping trip with his wife, had to be cut from the wreckage of his car and airlifted to hospital with a brain injury, complex neck fractures, a fractured breast bone, bruised lung and a dislocated elbow.

Mark French, 25.

Mr Brown was in a coma for six weeks, remained on life support and at one point his wife feared she would be asked to "turn the machines off and allow him to die".

He did regain consciousness but still suffers as a result of the smash, which happened on a Sunday afternoon in May 2017.

French, of Matterdale Road, Peterlee, who went through a red light again in the months after the smash, admitted dangerous driving and has been jailed for 18 months with a three year and nine month road ban followed by extended test requirement.

A charge of the more serious offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving was dropped.

John Brown was in a coma for six weeks after the smash.

‘You were driving in excess of the speed limit’, says judge

Judge Julie Clemitson told him: "As the traffic light changed, Mr Brown crossed your lane to turn right. He should have been able to expect that the traffic coming the other way had stopped at the red light, as his was on green.

"It is accepted by the expert, however, he must not have made sure it was safe and therefore he bares some responsibility for not having taken precautions himself.

"That being said, if you had stuck to the rules of the road and you had stopped, this accident would not have happened. You bare substantial responsibility for what took place."

Mark French, 25, crashed his Skoda Fabia into John Brown's Ford Focus at speed.

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The judge added: "You were driving in excess of the speed limit, at a speed inappropriate for that section of the road and went through a red traffic light.

"You deliberately disregarded the rules of the road and took a gamble. That gamble had very substantial consequences for Mr and Mrs Brown."

French has never been to prison

Shaun Routledge, defending, said French, who has two children and has never been to prison before, had not taken any drugs or alcohol before the accident and the road was clear.

Mr Routledge added: "It is not clear how long it had been on red but it must have been on red when he went through.

"But for the collision, it might well be described as careless driving.

"The consequences could never have been foreseen."

Police say crash could have led to fatality

PC Gary Morris, of Northumbria Police’s motor patrols department, said: “Mark French’s disgraceful actions could so easily have resulted in a fatality.

“While the victim has gone some way to recovering physically following the collision, French’s decision to travel in excess of the speed limit that day has had a profound impact on the elderly gentleman and his family.

“I would like to thank them for their cooperation and patience throughout this process, and hope this conviction can help them to seek some form of closure.

“Our roads are not race tracks and the laws are not optional. French’s actions were dangerous, erratic and wholly irresponsible.

“He has caused a significant amount of pain as a result of his behaviour behind the wheel, and now must deal with the consequences. It is clear that he cannot be trusted to use our roads in a safe and respectable manner.

“I hope today’s sentence sends out a strong message to other road users, and we will take robust action against anybody who breaks the law and endangers others while behind the wheel of a car.”