A Dutchman has walked free from court after killing a grandmother in a head-on smash while driving on the wrong side of the road for half-a-mile.
Michel Vanderburgt, 38, had reverted to his “normal” side of the road when he ploughed into Jacqueline Emmott’s car.
Mrs Emmott, 67, died at the scene from head and abdominal injuries and her husband Tony, who was driving the car on September 16 last year, is still receiving treatment for his injuries.
Road Safety Charity, Brake, spoke out after a judge suspended Vanderburgt’s six-month prison sentence for 12 months yesterday.
Bradford Crown Court heard that Vanderburgt had been driving his Opal Astra in heavy rain on the wrong side of the road for around 60 seconds after leaving the Cow and Calf restaurant near Ilkley.
Judge Robert Bartfield told him that his driving at the beauty spot fell “not far short” of dangerous driving but said he did not think a few weeks in jail would do “any good.” Vanderburgt was also given a 12-month driving ban, which will not apply in the Netherlands.
The court was told that Vanderburgt and his wife Sally had been visiting her family in the UK, as they did regularly. They had travelled from Hull to Ilkley to visit her half-sister, and spent the afternoon at the Cow and Calf Hotel. The couple had switched on a sat-nav for directions back to Hull, which had told them they would arrive back in two hours.
Judge Bartfield told Vanderburgt the sat-nav “may have distracted” him, adding: “Whether it did or not you took up the wrong carriageway, driving on the right hand side of the road which investigations show you did for something like 60 seconds. I have concluded that you must have set off and reverted to your normal direction of travel.”
The court heard that Vanderburgt “did not see” markings on the 50mph road, which would have appeared the wrong way round to someone travelling the wrong way. He drove in the rain for around half a mile down what the judge called a “narrow, lonely piece of road with little traffic on it at that time”.
Investigations concluded that he would have been travelling about 33mph, while Mr Emmott was travelling a little slower – between 25 and 30mph.
As they approached a bend in the road, Vanderburgt could not see Mr and Mrs Emmott coming in the opposite direction until it was too late – both cars tried to avoid the other but collided head-on, resulting in injuries to all four people.
Retired police welfare officer Mrs Emmott suffered injuries to her head and abdomen and, although emergency services were called, her life could not be saved.
Vanderburgt suffered various wounds and bruising, and had to stay in hospital for three days. His wife also suffered wounds and bruising.
Judge Bartfield told Vanderburgt: “The reality of this was that this was a much-loved wife, mother and grandmother, retired for only one month. Her family are completely devastated by the loss of this remarkable lady.
“You have to accept your responsibility because had you concentrated on what you were doing instead of being distracted, this would not have happened. You will wake up every day and when you open your eyes you will have a recollection of what you have done. That will be your greatest punishment. I’m satisfied your remorse is genuine.”
Yunus Valli, for Vanderburgt, said his client is a “decent, hard-working, family man”, who was “mortified” by the accident. Vanderburgt, who had pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving, was also ordered to pay £500 towards costs.
Brake’s senior campaigns officer Ellen Booth said afterwards: “This sentence does seem to be on the low side of the sentencing options a judge has when facing a charge of death by careless driving.”