Driver jailed for causing the death of a Wootton Wawen man after he took his eyes off the road to pick up his coffee

Judge Potter said: “This is a case that sadly illustrates all too well the catastrophic results of being distracted at the wheel by food or drink"

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 5:56 pm

A driver has been jailed for causing the death of a Wootton Wawen man after he took his eyes off the road to pick up his coffee.

It took fire crews 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 December 2019 by dangerous driving and causing serious injury to Mrs Alder, again by dangerous driving.

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

Griffin (32) of Himbleton Close, Redditch, who was drinking a cup of coffee in the cab of his Nissan Navara truck as he was driving, was jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Judge Anthony Potter, who also banned him from driving for six years eight months, commented: “He chose to prioritise his cup of coffee over keeping his eyes on the road.”

The charges follow a collision on the A4189 Redditch Road near Ullenhall during the afternoon on December 11, 2019, when the Alders’ Ford Focus was hit by Griffin’s Nissan.

Prosecutor Sharon Bahia said that a couple who turned onto the A4189 behind Griffin, who was on his way home from work, had a dashcam which recorded his driving and was played in court.

It showed the Navara crossing the central white line on no fewer than six occasions and almost hitting the nearside kerb on three occasions, as well as twice braking unnecessarily.

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

Mr and Mrs Alder, from Wootton Wawen, who had been married for 50 years and had been on their way home from visiting their daughter in Redditch, were both severely injured.

It took 90 minutes for 74-year-old Mr Alder to be cut free from the wreckage and he was then rushed to hospital where he received an immediate blood transfusion.

He had devastating injuries to his pelvis, hip, chest, feet and legs, one of which had to be amputated above the knee, and while undergoing a further operation on Christmas Eve he suffered a heart attack and died.

Tragically Mrs Alder suffered such serious injuries that she was also detained in hospital and did not get to see him before he died, said Miss Bahia.

Her injuries left her unable to clean or feed herself for three months, and her ongoing mobility problems mean she has been unable to stay in her home and has moved in with her daughter.

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

And 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 – and he has asked the police to pass on his condolences, added Miss Bahia.

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 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 been remorseful for his actions since the day of the incident and 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.”

Inspector Michael Huntley from Warwickshire Police said: “This was a tragic incident which resulted in the death of Mr Alder and caused serious injuries to his wife, not to mention the grief sustained by the whole family.

“Sadly, this case once again highlights the importance of having full concentration while driving and the devastating consequences that can result if this is not done.

“Our thoughts remain with Mr Alder’s family, and hope this outcome will now give them a small sense of closure.”