Page last updated at 06:47 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

'Laws strong enough' after deaths

Paulo Jorge Nogueira da Silva after being sentenced on Monday
Paulo Jorge Nogueira da Silva was jailed for three years

A police officer has defended road laws after a Portuguese lorry driver was jailed for causing the deaths on the M6 of a family by careless driving.

Ch Supt Geraint Anwyl said while EU laws on driver hours were sufficient as long as they were adhered to, there were difficulties enforcing them.

But the UK member of a European traffic police forum said tiredness was a problem with long-distance drivers.

David and Michelle Statham and their four children were killed last October.

Lorry driver Paulo Jorge Nogueira da Silva, 46, was jailed for three years on Monday at Chester Crown Court.

He was cleared of dangerous driving but convicted of six counts of causing death by careless driving on the M6 in Cheshire.

Mr Statham, 38, and his wife, 33, were travelling back to Llandudno, Conwy from Birmingham with children Reece, 13, Jay, nine, Mason, 20 months and 10-week-old Ellouise.

Their silver people carrier burst into flames after it was involved in a five-vehicle pile-up between junctions 16 and 17 of the motorway.

The prosecution claimed Da Silva was using a global positioning system on his laptop computer to work out an alternative route at the time of the crash.

Da Silva denied using the computer while he was driving, but police found it by the driver's seat with the screen turned to face the driver.

David Statham and his wife Michelle (top left) with their four children Jay (top right), Mason (bottom left); Reece, 13, and Ellouise (bottom righ
The Statham family were killed in October in a crash on the M6

Ch Supt Anwyl represents the UK on the European traffic police network, a forum which aims to reduce road crash casualties across Europe.

He said officers needed to make best use of intelligence to target the companies and individuals who were known to be flouting road laws.

"I think the law as it stands, if it is adhered to, is sufficient," he said.

"The problem is enforcing and ensuring these people adhere to the laws relating to driver hours.

"It is a matter of enforcement and education."

Ch Supt Anwyl said most problems involved vehicles on international journeys and that foreign drivers had a significantly higher offending rate than those based in the UK.

Economic pressures were driving firms and individuals into pushing themselves, he added.

"Fatigue is an issue," he said.

"These people are driving very long distances, often alone in the cabs and they can quite often be distracted.

"They need to get to the point of the delivery, complete the task and get back either home or the depot for the next lot to be taken.

"It is a huge responsibility on them to keep themselves alert and make sure their vehicles are in good order. They are professional drivers at the end of the day."

After the verdicts, Supt Guy Hindle, from Cheshire Police, said: "This tragedy is not about foreign lorry drivers on British roads.

"It is about a dreadful crash that wiped out a generation of one family and was due to one driver's gross inattention. "

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