13 September 2023

Bride’s mother ‘would have been highly visible’ before fatal crash, says expert

13 September 2023

The mother of a bride-to-be “would have been highly visible” to a hotel owner before he ran her over outside his complex, an ergonomics expert has told a jury.

Judith Wadsworth had been crossing an access road outside the Coniston Hotel and Spa, near Skipton, North Yorkshire, when she was hit by a Range Rover being driven by the hotel’s owner and managing director, Nicholas Bannister, Bradford Crown Court has heard.

Mrs Wadsworth, 66, had arrived at the hotel ahead of her daughter’s wedding, which was due to take place the next day, and was walking from the car park to the main reception when she was struck by the car.

The jury has heard that Bannister had driven a short distance from the front of the hotel and is estimated to have been travelling between 9mph and 12mph at the time.

In my opinion she would have been highly visible throughout Mr Bannister’s approach to the crossing, had he been looking at her

The court has been told that the incident happened on a crossing on February 7 2020, immediately after the defendant had pulled out of the drop-off road in front of the main entrance.

On Wednesday, ergonomics expert Dr David Usher told the jury he had examined all the available evidence to assess the “conspicuity” of both Mrs Wadsworth to Bannister and the Range Rover to Mrs Wadsworth.

He told the jury: “In my opinion she would have been highly visible throughout Mr Bannister’s approach to the crossing, had he been looking at her.”

Dr Usher was asked about the influence of the A-pillar of the Range Rover, which is the main support between the windscreen and driver’s side window.

The expert said he believes it is “not credible” that the structure could have obscured Bannister’s view of Mrs Wadsworth throughout the time she was walking from the car park to the point of impact.

He said: “She would have to had to run very fast, so I believe that is not credible.”

Dr Usher accepted that an A-pillar can obscure a driver’s view momentarily but said the relative positions of the post and the pedestrian are moving.

He also stressed it is a “natural part of driving” for a motorist to move their head to compensate for this problem.

Dr Usher added that Bannister’s familiarity with the location of the crossing was another factor increasing the conspicuity of Mrs Wadsworth.

The expert said the “failed-to-see scenario” is a common factor in accidents.

He told the jury: “Although a driver appears to be looking where he’s going, he’s not seeing because he’s not thinking, the cognition isn’t there.

“I believe this factor might have contributed to this tragedy.”

Lisa Judge, defending, asked Dr Usher if it is possible that Mrs Wadsworth was distracted as she walked between the car park and the hotel, as she made the final preparations for her daughter’s wedding.

The expert told the jury: “We have no evidence to suggest that she was.”

Ms Judge said: “We have no evidence to suggest that she wasn’t.”

The expert said “the likelihood was that she wasn’t” but agreed with the barrister that it was possible.

Defence conspicuity expert Graham Edgar, who is a professor of psychology and applied neuroscience, said he disagreed with Dr Usher’s conclusion that Mrs Wadsworth would have been highly visible to the defendant.

He said this is “because we don’t know where Mr Bannister was looking and we don’t know where he was at that time, and we don’t know where Mrs Wadsworth was at any particular time. We can’t quantify it.”

Asked about Dr Usher’s views on it being natural for drivers to look around A-pillars, Prof Edgar said this is “not an effective strategy” and he would “not expect a careful driver to do it”.

Bannister, of Bell Busk, near Skipton, denies causing death by driving without due care and attention.

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