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East Lancs taxi driver falls asleep at the wheel
Updated 1:02pm Monday 23rd June 2014 in News
A TAXI passenger said she heard her driver snoring after he fell asleep behind the wheel twice.
Burnley cabbie James Gary Sharp ‘nodded off’ as he drove the woman home from Clitheroe town centre.
Blackburn magistrates heard his moving vehicle came to a halt at a level crossing where his head fell fully onto his chest, his eyes closed and he could be heard snoring.
And the court was told that two weeks earlier Sharp, of the Cross Keys Hotel, St James Street, Burnley, had been on his way to collect a fare when he crashed into a parked car, a lapse he blamed on fatigue.
Sharp, 49, pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention on September 25 in relation to the incident where he fell asleep.
The magistrates found him not guilty of dangerous driving on September 10, when the crash happened, but guilty of driving without due care and attention.
He was fined £110 with £105 costs and his licence endorsed with seven penalty points.
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Philip Hall, prosecuting, said on September 25 Sharp was driving his taxi along Greenacre Street, Clitheroe carrying a female passenger who had booked a taxi from Tiger Taxis, travelling from the Buck Inn in the town centre.
She heard him snoring and looked to see his head had dropped half way towards his chest.
The same was repeated further down the road as he drove past a school. This time she saw his eyes were closed and his head was starting to fall towards his chest when his head jerked forward. When they reached a level crossing the barriers were down and the taxi stopped.
“The passenger heard the sound of snoring again and she looked across and saw the defendant’s head fall towards his chest twice before dropping completely onto his chest,” said Mr Hall. “His eyes were closed and he was asleep.”
The witness opened the taxi door to get out and Sharp woke.
Philip Turner, defending, said the female passenger had said nothing to Sharp at the time and had remained in the taxi until her journey was complete.
She complained to Tiger Taxis and when they didn’t seem to be overly concerned reported it to the police.
The earlier incident happened in Moor Lane after Sharp had driven off the Sainsbury’s car park.
The prosecution case was that his driving had fallen well below the standard expected but Mr Turner successfully argued it had been a momentary lapse in concentration.
“It has always been the case he would have pleaded guilty to driving without due care on that occasion but not to dangerous driving,” said Mr Turner.
Sharp told the court he was suffering from fatigue and depression. His father and his partner’s father had both died and he was taking medication for depression and back pain.
On the day of the accident he had doubled his dose of pain killers because he was in particular discomfort.
At the scene of the accident he told a police officer; “I remember coming round the bend and then bang.”
He told the court he couldn’t explain what had happened other than he had a momentary lapse of concentration.
Mr Hall said it was the prosecution case that Sharp had fallen asleep on that occasion as well.
“The taxi licensing authority suspended his permit and he took no issue with that,” added Mr Turner. “He will not be taking fares again until he has been certified as fit by his GP.”
Adam McCally, from Clitheroe-based Tiger Taxis, said: “Gary’s a good friend of mine and he still works here on the phones. He’s not driving at all.
“His dad had just died and he was going through a lot of depression and it was his medication which made him fall asleep.
“As soon as we heard it happened the boss said ‘don’t panic, you can still work here’.
“We knew he couldn’t afford to lose his job, so he’s still helping out with a few shifts.
“We want to help him get back on track.”