A CORONER concerned about the rise in road-rage incidents on our roads has asked the Home Secretary to investigate after overseeing a case yesterday in which two motorists were killed as a result of an alcohol-fuelled car chase.
West Somerset Coroner Michael Rose said a number of recent cases have convinced him that the phenomenon might be higher in Britain than the rest of Europe. Mr Rose was speaking after ruling that a crash which killed innocent motorist Richard Parker, 35, of Cheddar, was caused by "gross criminal negligence which amounted to unlawful killing."
He said: "I never heard of it one or two decades ago, but it is becoming increasingly common, and it would be interesting to know if there is a single common factor, or if it is just something occurring to our nation."
The man responsible for the fatal crash was BMW driver Vincent Atkinson, 31, also of Cheddar, who had harassed and pursued another vehicle and collided head-on with Mr Parker's car while attempting to overtake the vehicle he was pursuing at around 70 miles per hour in a 40 mile zone.
Mr Atkinson was also killed and Gregory Sumner, a front seat passenger in his car suffered serious brain injury. He is still in hospital.
The tragedy happened on the A371 Axbridge bypass just after 3am on October 7 last year.
A toxicology report showed Mr Atkinson's blood alcohol level was two-and-a-half times the drink-driving limit and a witness said she had seen Mr Atkinson drinking in a nightclub in Weston-super-Mare earlier that night.
Two 15-year-old boy passengers in the Peugeot that Atkinson pursued were left crying with fear as he twice overtook at speed, then stopped in the middle of the road, blocking the other car's way.
The Peugeot driver, Julian Browne, 21, of Easton, Wells, tried desperately to escape by reversing and driving off in the opposite direction but Mr Atkinson pursued him at speeds which Mr Browne estimated as 80-100 miles per hour.
In written evidence one of the 15-year-olds said the behaviour was so intimidating : "I honestly thought we were going to die."
PC Philip Howell said the speedometer on Mr Parker's car had stopped at 42 miles per hour. The BMW's speed at impact was assessed at 70 miles per hour or a little less. He was sure that Mr Browne had done nothing to invoke the pursuit.
Mr Rose said Mr Parker's driving could not be criticised. His family attended the hearing and his father said: "I am pleased this has confirmed he did nothing wrong."