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1st Jul, 2022

Driver jailed after ploughing into elderly couple's car while sipping coffee

Editorial Correspondent 24th Mar, 2021 Updated: 24th Mar, 2021

A 4X4 driver has been jailed after smashing head-on into a Wootton Wawen couple’s car as he took his eyes off the road to sip his coffee.

It took firefighters an hour-and-a-half to cut 74-year-old Kenneth Alder out of the wreckage – and he suffered a fatal heart attack while later undergoing the third in a series of operations.

And because of her own devastating injuries, his wife Maureen never got to see him before he died, a judge at Warwick Crown Court has heard.

Philip Griffin pleaded guilty to causing Mr Alder’s death in 2019 by dangerous driving and causing serious injury to Mrs Alder by dangerous driving.

The 32-year-old, of Himbleton Close, Redditch, was jailed for three-and-a-half years and was banned from driving for six years, eight months.

Dashcam footage, which captured his driving along the A4189 Redditch Road, showed the Nissan Navara crossing the central white line six times and almost hitting the nearside kerb on three occasions, and twice braking unnecessarily.

The couple behind Griffin, to who the dashcam belonged, saw the driver of a small white car ahead of Griffin pulling over, and thought the driver ‘must have been frightened’ by the way the Navara was being driven.

There was ‘an almighty bang’ as the Navara went close to the kerb on a left-hand bend, then onto the other side of the road head-on into the Alders’ Ford Focus without braking.

After being cut from the wreckage, Mr Alder was rushed to hospital where he received a blood transfusion and a leg amputation. And while undergoing a further operation on Christmas Eve he suffered a heart attack and died.

Mrs Alder, who did not get the chance to say goodbye to her husband of 50 years, suffered injuries which left her unable to clean or feed herself for three months.

At the scene Griffin had seemed in shock, repeatedly saying: “Oh my God, it’ all my fault, I could have killed them.”

He admitted: “I took my eye off the road to look at the centre console where I had a coffee.”

He said he picked up the coffee to take a sip, but it was empty, so he put it back, and when he looked up again he was on the wrong side of the road.

Makhan Shoker, defending, said: “These are never easy cases. There are no winners, people suffer on both sides.

“This will be his first and, I have no doubt, his last custodial sentence. It is something that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

“This is not a case of a tearaway driver who had been drinking or taking drugs, this is a man who made a major mistake on a drive home and took his eyes off the road for no more than two or three seconds.”

Jailing Griffin, Judge Anthony Potter told him: “This is a case that sadly illustrates all too well the catastrophic results of being distracted at the wheel by food or drink.

“You became distracted by your coffee in the console of your vehicle, and I am quite satisfied you were distracted on more than one occasion because your car with increasing regularity strayed towards the centre of the road or towards the kerb.

“Sadly for all concerned, you did not absorb the obvious lessons of this movement and continued to be distracted – and you drifted into the off-side carriageway with devastating results.

“I have no doubt you are very sorry for what happened and that you will regret your part in the accident for the rest of your life.”

After the hearing, Griffin’s solicitor Manjinder Kang said: “Mr Griffin has deep sympathy for the loss and pain that has been caused to the family.

“He is very apologetic, and hopes the family can now have some closure.”

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