Driver banned after causing head-on smash

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A DRIVER has been banned from the roads after causing a head-on smash by overtaking a car on the blind brow of a hill.

Debt collector Graeme Atkinson denied dangerous driving after he was charged following the crash on the B1280 Salters Lane, in Wingate, on April 14.

However, the 33-year-old from Meadow Close, Houghton, was found guilty after a trial at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court.

Atkinson was given a 12-month disqualification from driving and will only be allowed to return to the roads after passing an extended test.

Paula Sanderson, prosecuting, explained how the accident happened at night as Atkinson’s Seat Leon overtook a woman in her car as they approached the summit of the hill on the winding road.

Mark Bradley, who was driving a Nissan X-Trail in the opposite direction, said he saw the oncoming car on his side of the road and had no time to react. Mrs Sanderson said: “There was a tremendous bang when the vehicles collided.

“It caused the air bags in the car to deploy and he knew immediately he was injured and hurt his left leg. He was unable to get out of the vehicle.”

Mr Bradley was taken to hospital where he had six stitches in his leg, which was also bruised.

The court heard he was in a lot of pain.

Ruth Foster, defending, said Atkinson had come to terms with causing the crash, which left him in hospital for up to four days with a broken forearm, injury to his shoulder and a gashed knee.

She said the woman in the car in front of Atkinson had slowed to allow the car ahead of her to turn into a junction. The driver said Atkinson had then overtaken as she began to accelerate.

Miss Foster said: “The fact is, this is a horrific example of driving on the part of Mr Atkinson, who overtook on a blind bend in what could have been a catastrophic collision. He realises there was a severe lapse in concentration and judgement.”

She said he has lost his job with United Utilities, which had written him a glowing personal reference to be handed into the magistrates, as he needed to drive for work.

Chairman of the bench, Ian Huitson, said: “The victim was severely traumatised and it’s a real wonder that this was no more serious or that someone wasn’t killed.”

He added there had been plenty of markings and signs to indicate the bends in the road that should have served as a warning.

As well as the ban, magistrates also ordered Atkinson to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work, pay £300 in court costs, a £60 victim surcharge and compensation of £150.