A woman who drove into the hard shoulder of a motorway, colliding with a motorcyclist and killing him, has been given a suspended sentence and disqualified from driving for four years.
Sandra Kavanagh (47) was driving to work in heavy traffic on the M50 in Dublin in November 2019 when she indicated and moved her car part-way into the hard shoulder, colliding with Nebojsa Sarcevic who was travelling in the same direction on his motorbike.
Mr Sarcevic (29) was thrown from his bike and crashed into the motorway barrier. He died as a result of his injuries.
Kavanagh, of Leigh Valley, Ratoath, Co Meath, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to careless driving causing death on the M50 near Finglas on November 19th, 2019. She has four previous convictions for road traffic offences, including exceeding the speed limit, and failing to wear a seat belt.
Sentencing Kavanagh on Monday, Judge Martin Nolan noted it is not known why Kavanagh drove onto the hard shoulder, and it's not known whether she looked into her mirror before doing so.
A safety report handed into court by the defence concluded that if Kavanagh looked into her mirror, she still may not have seen Mr Sarcevic behind her.
Judge Nolan said it was a tragic case for Mr Sarcevic's family, whose widow and sister were in court for the sentencing.
“To lose someone as young as that leaves a huge hole in the life of his loved ones,” the judge said. He said it was obvious that Mr Sarcevic, who was originally from Serbia, was “a good man, working hard”.
In relation to Kavanagh, Judge Nolan said there were no aggravating factors in the case such as excessive speed or the use of alcohol, drugs or a phone while driving.
“This was inattentive driving, a human error,” the judge said. He noted: “All drivers are capable of it and a lot of us are guilty of it.”
“Unfortunately, her inattentive driving caused the death of this young man.”
Judge Nolan ruled that Kavanagh did not deserve a custodial sentence for her “bad driving on the day in question”. He handed down a suspended sentence of eight months and disqualified her from driving for four years.
Initially, the judge disqualified Kavanagh from driving for one year, but the barristers in the case returned to court shortly afterwards and said there was a mandatory disqualification of four years in place.
Garda Shane Guinan told Pieter Le Vert BL, prosecuting, that Kavanagh was driving to work around 7.45am on the day in question. It was still dark and traffic on the M50 was heavy and moving slowly, but driving conditions were otherwise good.
A witness saw Kavanagh indicate, before she moved her car halfway into the hard shoulder, where she collided with Mr Sercevic, who was on his motorbike riding to his job at a furniture company. His bike was pushed into the motorway barrier, he was thrown from it and also hit the barrier.
A number of drivers tried to help Mr Sercevic and Kavanagh also remained at the scene. Gardaí and emergency services arrived quickly, and Kavanagh was questioned by gardaí later that day.
She told gardaí she didn't remember crossing the yellow line for the hard shoulder, saying “I think I must have been, but I don't know".
Kavanagh attended for a second voluntary interview the following January where she was shown video footage of the incident. She became upset upon watching it and expressed her condolences to Mr Sercevic's family.
Careless driving causing death
She was originally charged with dangerous driving causing death, but this was downgraded to careless driving causing death, and she entered an early plea.
Victim impact statements from Mr Sercevic's widow, sister and mother were handed into court, but not read out. Judge Nolan viewed the footage of the incident.
Justin McQuade BL, defending, said Kavanagh is “remorseful, contrite, shocked and upset” at her actions on the day in question. He said it was a “momentary lapse, an act of carelessness on her part with devastating consequences”.
He said she was a hard-working professional, whose partner was in court to support her. She gave birth to her first child earlier this year, the court heard.
Judge Nolan accepted that the incident also caused Kavanagh a great deal of trauma, and she will have to live with the consequences.