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EDITIONS
Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 16:37 GMT
Police condemn 'sleep-deprived' drivers
Selby train crash
Examiners rebuilt Harts' vehcile to prove him guilty
Detectives involved in the investigation into the cause of the Selby train disaster have warned that all sleep-deprived drivers should be treated as "social outcasts".

Outside Leeds Crown Court they expressed little sympathy for Hart, and described him as a "mobile catastrophe waiting to happen".

Detective Superintendent Peter McKay, from North Yorkshire Police, stressed drivers who carry on while feeling drowsy should be viewed in the same way as drink drivers.

He said: "Gary Hart set out on the fateful journey from his home address in a sleep-deprived state, and he knew he was not fit to drive.

Det Supt Peter McKay
Det Supt McKay: "Social outcasts"

"He was driving two tonnes of metal at excessive speeds, and he had a warning that he was not fit to drive when his car went off the road.

"But he ploughed on, with catastrophic events. He caused the Great Heck Rail Crash."

The investigation into the cause of the Selby train crash was also described as one of the biggest criminal investigations undertaken.

Nearly 1,000 officers were involved in the case and 1,216 statements taken.

Painstaking

In total, 1,962 lines of inquiry were pursued and 1,985 exhibits logged.

The wreckage of Hart's Land rover was slowly pieced together by Humberside Police.

More than 800 pieces were put together to show that there was no mechanical defect on the vehicle.


Growing congestion on our roads will only exacerbate the number of people involved in fatigue-related accidents

Edmund King, RAC Foundation

Det Supt Peter McKay said: "This trial is unique... we had to prove there was no mechanical defects, we had to prove there was nothing on the carriageway... the verdict today has shown we have done it."

Superintendent Nick Bracken, from the British Transport Police, said: "Our concerns now are with the families of the bereaved and those who were injured and have survived.

"Our concerns are that they can rebuild their lives.

"Hopefully Christmas can be a little bit better for them now that this is over."

Sleepy drivers

The Humberside Police accident investigation team also found no signs of braking on the grass as Hart's vehicle careered down the embankment on to the track.

A poll carried out last year by the RAC Foundation showed more than 60% of drivers questioned said they had driven while sleepy.

Of these, 8% said they had, at some time, nodded off momentarily at the wheel.

Supt Nick Bracken
Supt Bracken sympathised with the victims

Almost a third also said they felt more stressed, angry and more likely to confront other drivers when they were tired.

The RAC Foundation has called for more rest areas along motorways and trunk roads, further studies into sleep-related accidents, tiredness-warning signs on motorways and more research into "sleepiness detectors" for fitting into cars.

"We now need action to implement a range of plans which will stem these avoidable deaths and injuries such as the Selby tragedy," said the foundation's executive director Edmund King.

"Growing congestion on our roads will only exacerbate the number of people involved in fatigue-related accidents," he added.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kevin Bocquet at Leeds Crown Court
"It was a tragedy of horrific proportions"

Key stories

Background stories

KEY COURT STORIES

IN PICTURES

CLICKABLE CRASH GUIDE

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

13 Dec 01 | England
Links to more England stories are at the foot of the page.


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