Thurles District Court
A horse and cart driver who crashed into a car, causing injuries to himself and to the horse so that it later had to be put down, was fined for careless driving at Thurles District Court.
Robert Ely, of the Burma Road, Moyne, Thurles, was charged with driving without due care and attention at Killoran, Moyne, Thurles, on February 17, 2019.
Judge Elizabeth MacGrath heard evidence from Mr Ely’s neighbour, Mary Bowe, that she was driving at about 7pm that evening only 100m from her house, when a car came towards her on a narrow road near a bridge. “Suddenly a horse and cart came out of the dark at me. I could not brake in time,” said Ms Bowe.
The cart and car collided, throwing the cart driver, Mr Ely onto the road. The horse escaped its tethers and ran up the road.
Ms Bowe said there wasn’t enough room at that point in the road for two vehicles. The carriage was a 4-wheel vehicle, not a ‘sulky’. The carriage hit the front right of her car. “The horse started jerking up and down, it all happened in seconds,” said Ms Bowe. “I was jerked forwards. My neck was sore. I was very shocked.”
The crash caused some €5,000 of damage to her vehicle, and her insurance premiums doubled for three years, from €500 to €1,000 as a result. Mr Ely was not wearing any Hi-Viz jacket. They were neighbours but she did not know him very well.
Veterinarian, Iris Kaiser, was the driver of the other car. Mr Ely was between her and Ms Bowe. Ms Kaiser could see his two back red reflector lights, “which looked like kids’ bikes.” Ms Kaiser said she walked up to the scene after the collision, and realised that Mr Ely had fallen from the cart and was on the ground. “I checked on him first, the horse had ran off,” she said. When she got to the carriage, the lights on the side were “very dim”. Her head torch was brighter than the lights used on the carriage, said Ms Kaiser.
Mr Ely said he had consumed “three small bottles of Budweiser” that evening before resuming his journey home. “I remember a car coming at me and behind me at the same time,” he said.
After he pulled up, he didn't remember what happened next, but he sustained nine stitches and bruised ribs from the crash. The damage was put at €4,000.
Insp James White put it to Mr Ely that it was 7pm, and sundown in February was about 5pm, so it was pitch dark as Mr Ely drove the carriage with “extremely poor” lighting on dark country roadway.
Solicitor JJ Fitzgerald maintained that his client had lights equipped on the carriage in accordance with law.
Judge MacGrath said she noted that Ms Bowe had seen no lights on the carriage, and Ms Kaiser, who has “no axe to grind” with either party, said the lights were as dim as a head torch.
Garda Caroline Drennan had indicated that the lights were not sufficient for that dark roadway in February “in the pitch dark.”
“I am satisfied the lights were totally inadequate given the time, and the road conditions,” said Judge MacGrath.
“My sympathy goes out to the poor horse.”
Mr Ely, 77, has no previous convictions.
Judge MacGrath fined Mr Ely €300, and ordered that €300 be paid in witnesses’ expenses.
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