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16th Oct, 2021

Former teacher left paralysed after Holt Heath crash makes plea to older drivers

Rob George 10th Jul, 2021 Updated: 10th Jul, 2021

A FORMER teacher left paralysed by a dangerous Worcester driver has urged older people to consider whether they can still drive safely.

Dawn Walters, 50, was struck by a reversing car when she stopped for tea with her friend at Broomfields of Holt Orchards and Farm Shop, in Holt Heath, in August 2020.

She was walking with her electric bike in the orchard near the coffee shop trying to find a table to sit with her friend when a car began reversing out of control.

The car struck some tables and trees before it hit Ms Walters, causing her catastrophic injuries.

The driver Pauline Haynes, 87, of Worcester, pleaded guilty to two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court to two years’ imprisonment suspended for two years on each count and banned from driving for 10 years.

In considering the appropriate sentence, His Honour Judge Martin Hirst looked at the role of the phenomenon of ‘sudden unintended acceleration’, an unintended, unexpected, uncontrolled acceleration of a vehicle, often caused by driver error and pedal misapplication and noted it was common with elderly drivers.

Ms Walters’ life has been changed completely by the collision and she is now unable to do many of the things she loved including gardening, cooking, travelling, leading a local Duke of Edinburgh group, attending the local theatre and church and socialising with friends.

She has been unable to return to her beloved job as a chemistry teacher due to the loss of dexterity which makes performing complex experiments impossible.

Speaking after the sentencing, Ms Walters said: “My life has been completely devastated by what happened and it will never be the same again. My family are having to leave our home which we have lived in for more than 20 years because it is no longer accessible to me. My career has been ended and my social life is now very difficult.

“I strongly believe older people should consider whether they are capable of driving.

“The driver who hit me never tried to stop, she was totally out of control, and acted negligently by choosing to drive.

To me this is comparable to drink driving.

“My life has been ruined because the driver didn’t recognise her inability to act in a safe manner when in charge of a lethal weapon. This has got to change.”

Bethany Sanders, solicitor from Leigh Day, who represents Ms Walters in her civil claim, said: “These incidents are avoidable if people appreciate the responsibility they have on the roads and make the necessary decision to cease driving when no longer fit to do so.”

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