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The importance of keeping windscreens clear - a tragic reminder

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Enforcement, Features, Safe driving

Suzanna Bull portrait

In October 2017, NHS Doctor Suzanna Bull was killed whilst cycling in Birmingham.

Despite it being illegal to operate a heavy vehicle with an obscured windscreen, this fatal incident happened because a lorry driver failed to see her despite her wearing hi-viz clothing.

I know the vast majority of drivers and operators take road safety extremely seriously. However, we still see vehicles with cluttered windscreens on a regular basis. It's tragic cases like this, that remind us how dangerous windscreen obstructions can be.

The case

The driver’s vision was obscured by a tray and its contents, which blocked a large area of the windscreen.

Although Suzanna had stopped at the traffic lights at least three bike lengths in front of the lorry, the driver couldn't see her or the road ahead because of the clutter.

Our thoughts are with the victim’s family. Any fatal road collision is a tragedy, but one which was preventable is especially so.

The sentence

The driver was sentenced to 21 months in prison and banned from driving for 2 years and 10 months, after being convicted of causing death by careless driving.

During the case, it came to light that the operator S&J Transport knew that the lorry wouldn't pass an annual test (MOT) with the tray. They removed the tray during tests, then replaced it afterwards.

S&J Transport was fined £112,500 and ordered to pay £3,000 in costs.

A tragic reminder

We've highlighted a few cases of blocked windscreens recently in our enforcement blog posts. 

But as a result of this tragic case and the coroner's verdict, we want to remind you all of the importance of making sure your vehicle's windscreen is always clear.

It may not seem the most important issue, but this case highlights the grave consequences it can have.

If everyone in the industry makes sure their vehicles have a clear view of the road, hopefully we can avoid more cases like this happening.

The cluttered lorry dashboard

Targeting obstructions at the roadside

We always check a lorry's windscreen is clear of obstruction when carrying out our roadside checks.

Unfortunately, our enforcement staff do still find vehicles where the drivers’ view is obscured. In all cases, the drivers will be given a prohibition and penalty. The obstruction must also be removed before the lorry is allowed to move on.

Living with the consequences

Fines, prohibitions and delayed delivery are one thing. Causing someone’s death is something that will stay with this driver forever, even after he finishes his prison sentence.

We will not hesitate in imposing the strongest penalties on anybody we find breaking the law and endangering peoples’ lives.

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  1. Comment by Pete Handley posted on

    An absolute tragedy for the victims family and friends, a loss to the medical profession and an ordeal for those involved in the investigation and bringing the case to court.
    Lets hope that lessons can be learned and shared to prevent future recurrence.
    Such incidents are far too frequent in urban traffic areas even with modern ultrasound sensors and close proximity mirrors fitted.

  2. Comment by Bill h posted on

    Such a waste of a young life,maybe this will make driver’s think before putting them ridiculous tasseled curtains in trucks & pulling them halfway along the door windows blocking vision,thoughts go out to both families who are affected by this accident

  3. Comment by ernest mowat posted on

    the driver could not have been looking at all, maybe looking at his paperwork? he got off very very lightly in my opinion!

  4. Comment by Alan Wright posted on

    Only things that assist should be in windscreen? Plastic flowers , flags , air fresheners football team banners should all be outlawed

  5. Comment by Mark h posted on

    I don’t no why this has all of a sudden become a problem, back in the 80s if you so much as had a fly squashed on your screen and you was travelling in Scotland the full force of the law would be down on you.
    It’s the same with showing a blue light to the front, always used to be illegal but now every dog security guard and every other lorry has them

  6. Comment by Andy Blatch posted on

    What a tragic and unnecessary waste of a young life.

  7. Comment by Trevor posted on

    We don't agree about everything but we do on this one!
    The average death toll on UK roads runs at five a day. Reducing it has to be a priority.

  8. Comment by Paul Brookes Mirte posted on

    The drivers ands operators have known about this for some time now When I was a vehicle examiner I always used to Prohibit as insecure and restricted screen was a danger to the control of the vehicle and as this case proves it

  9. Comment by KEVIN ARCHER posted on

    Disgraceful actions by the driver and the operator which ended a young valuable life. I would double the fine and the sentence and add a ten year driving ban.

  10. Comment by christina vance posted on

    totally agree there should be no obstructions in front or side of driver poor girl wasted life for a simple cleaning task