A VAN driver who killed his friend in a horrific road crash has escaped a jail sentence.
Terence Sim was at the wheel of a white Ford Transit van which crashed into the back of an articulated lorry, killing Ronald Alderson, from Cleadon.
Five ambulances and a rapid-response vehicle were called to the crash on the A1, in Cambridgshire, but were unable to save Mr Alderson.
Now, almost two years after the smash, Sim, 54, has been given a suspended prison term for causing the death of his colleague.
They had been returning to the North East from Kent, where they had been working.
However, after misjudging the speed of a lorry leaving the services, and briefly taking his eyes off the road to see if his friend was asleep, Sim crashed the van into the back of the lorry.
The force of the impact left Mr Alderson, 48, dead at the scene.
The court heard how Sim, of Causey Brae, Hexham, Northumberland, had been travelling almost 10mph above the 60mph speed limit when he ploughed into the lorry, which was travelling at an estimated 26mph, in October, 2009.
Sim, who was found guilty of causing death by careless driving at an earlier trial at Peterborough Crown Court, was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, last week.
He was also disqualified from driving for two years, ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and to pay £3,000 costs.
Sentencing, Judge Nic Madge said: “You blame the road layout. The exit from the services does not allow vehicles leaving it to acquire speed before joining the carriageway.
“It is also close to the bend. It is by no means the sharpest bend on the A1. There are undoubtedly other bends on the A1 which are far more dangerous. The evidence of the police is that it is unlikely that this collision would have occurred had you been driving at 60mph.”
Judge Madge also told Sim he should not have made the long journey after working a full day as a shop fitter.
He said: “There is no doubt that the factors which contributed to Mr Alderson’s death were your excessive speed breaking the speed limit and your lack of attention.
“In view of the hours that you had worked and the distance which you had driven, you would inevitably have been tired.
“Your decision to drive the whole length of the country after working all day was clearly wrong.”
In mitigation, Jonathon Davies said Sim was a “decent man” who had worked as a tradesman since he was 15 and used to help out at a local Scout group and volunteered as a reserve fireman.
“This was not the sort of distraction that involved the use of a mobile phone or an electric device,” said Mr Davies. “It is the sort of thing that happens on all long-distance journeys, but normally without incident.
“The defendant drives 54,000 miles every year and is often chosen as a nominated driver at work.”