Upminster man jailed for causing death by phone distraction while driving

A 30-year-old lorry driver from Upminster has been jailed for over three years, in connection with a

A 30-year-old lorry driver from Upminster has been jailed for over three years, in connection with a fatal road traffic collision in Suffolk in 2018. - Credit: Suffolk Police

A 30-year-old lorry driver from Upminster has been jailed for more than three years after causing the death of a pedestrian in Suffolk.

Dan-Constantin Caraza, of Bridge Avenue, appeared before Ipswich Crown Court on Tuesday, March 24, where he was jailed for 40 months.

He pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to causing the death of Brian Riley by dangerous driving, in a collision on the A134 on October 19, 2018.

Mr Riley, who was 65, was pushing his bicycle along the road shortly after 10am, when he was struck from behind by a cement mixer lorry driven by Caraza. Emergency services were called and arrived within a matter of minutes, but despite the best efforts of paramedics, Mr Riley died at the scene.

Initial witness accounts reported seeing Mr Riley walking well within the designated white line to the nearside of the road and said he was clearly visible to other road users.

With reference to Caraza’s manner of driving, witnesses stated he had been seen looking down into his lap with his vehicle veering to the nearside and failing to brake as he collided with Mr Riley. Dashcam footage obtained from the cement mixer supported these witness accounts, with the vehicle drifting to the nearside prior to hitting Mr Riley.

Analysis of Caraza’s mobile phone found that it had been active at the time of the collision, as it had been on a number of occasions earlier the same morning.

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After the collision, a camera on the outside of Caraza’s vehicle then captured him get out of the cab and place a phone into an external compartment, before going to check on Mr Riley.

When he pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, Caraza admitted he had been distracted by his phone, but claimed he had not been using it.

He denied a second charge of committing an act with intent to pervert the course of justice (by concealing the phone) and prosecutors opted to not pursue this matter following his admission of the other offence and it will lie on the file.

Det Insp Chris Hinitt, of the Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: “This was another completely avoidable death, caused by a professional driver who showed complete disregard for the lives and safety of other road users.

“The weather conditions that day were clear and fine and Mr Riley would have been visible at a distance of several hundred metres ahead, so it is clear that Caraza had been distracted for a considerable length of time, which the witness testimonies support.

“By comparing Caraza’s phone data with the onboard cameras, our investigators found that he had been using his mobile phone whilst driving on a number of occasions that morning, and that during these periods the vehicle had often strayed from the correct lane and been driven at excess speed.

“I struggle to find the right words to express my feelings about this incident and the sheer mindlessness that brought a very sudden and abrupt end to a 65-year-old man’s life.

“The reckless driving was compounded by the fact that after the collision, Caraza’s first thought was where to put his phone, rather than rush to the assistance of the man he had just hit – truly shocking behaviour.

“This should highlight to motorists beyond any doubt what a dangerous combination mobile phones and driving are. It does not matter whether you are using the phone to make a call or send a message, or whether you are looking at it and therefore distracted by it, either way you are gambling with the lives of others.

“The message is simple - put your phone away when you are driving. If caught using or holding your phone, at best you will receive six points on your licence and a £200 fine. At worst, you could be responsible for killing someone.”