A BUS driver has admitted being responsible for the death of a trucker who suffered fatal injuries in a crash on the approach to Stratford.
But Martin Clarke denies he was acting dangerously when he took his hand off the wheel to reach down to a bag on the floor of the bus – leading to him falling from his seat.
The 47-year-old, of Eckington Close, Redditch, pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to causing the death of lorry driver James Foster on January 17 by dangerous driving.
He pleaded guilty to an alternative offence of causing Mr Foster’s death by careless driving, but prosecutor Angus Robertson said that would not be accepted.
The charge follows a collision between Mr Clarke’s bus and Mr Foster’s lorry on the A439 Warwick Road at around 1.45pm.
Mark Laprell, defending, said it was accepted Mr Clarke was the driver of a bus, and that it went onto the off-side of the carriageway and collided with the side of a lorry coming the other way, rather than it being a head-on crash.
“The only issue is whether his driving is dangerous,” Mr Laprell explained.
“He says he reached down to his left side to a bag on the floor of the bus, and in doing so pressed against the gate which separated him from the passengers, which sprang open.
“He fell from his seat sideways, and that is where he was found. The (accident investigation) officer says if he was not in that position, he too could have been killed.”
And Mr Laprell said the defence case was that it was careless, rather than dangerous, for Mr Clarke to have distracted himself by taking his hand off the wheel and reaching down.
The trial is expected to last for two days, and Mr Laprell said the earliest it could be given a fixed date was April 15 next year.
He added in the meantime the prosecution was going to have the bus re-examined to see whether the driver’s gate was something which could spring open – and it may be possible for that to be done as a joint examination with a defence engineer.
Deputy Judge Richard Griffith-Jones, adjourning the case for trial, and granting Mr Clarke bail, said: “It is right that a jury should consider this.”