Texting driver jailed after causing cyclist's death

August 2015 Credit: ITV Meridian

A motorist has been jailed for nine years after he admitted causing the death of a cyclist in Hampshire. Christopher Gard, 30, of Linnet Way, Alton, pleaded guilty to causing the death of Lee Martin in a collision in August 2015 on the A31 near Bentley.

Gard was driving a white Ford Transit van on the Surrey bound carriageway and Mr Martin of Basingstoke was cycling in the same direction. Gard was texting just before the collision. He had also been convicted of using his phone at the wheel on a number of previous occasions. Gard was jailed for 9 years at Winchester Crown Court and disqualified from driving for 14 and a half years.

Mr Martin, 48, was taken to hospital but died a short while later. He was participating in an organised cycling event along the A31 which was and continues to be held on a regular basis.

Christopher Gard Credit: Hampshire Police

PC David Mitchell said: “This was a tragic loss of life that has left Mr Martin’s family devastated. Cyclists are vulnerable road users and extra care must be taken by motorists. Gard took the decision to send and receive text messages despite the risk to the safety of other road users. He remained unaware of the presence of Mr Martin or any other cyclists up to the point of collision. I hope that the sentence imposed by the judge will remind others of the risks. Like many drivers, Gard didn’t think a collision would occur while he was using his phone. He put himself and others in massive danger by doing so and in this case the consequences were tragic. It is never acceptable to take this risk.”

Lee Martin Credit: Hampshire Police

In a statement Lee Martin's family said: “Lee Martin leaves behind a wife and 2 children who greatly miss him. He is also sadly missed by his mother and father, his step parents and his 2 brothers and extended family. His love for life meant he was always surrounded by many friends. He was a loyal and committed family member and friend. Lee Martin was tragically killed whilst doing something which he was passionate about. He was cycling. He was totally innocent. Lee was a responsible, experienced and safe cyclist who was considerate to other road users.

The great tragedy about Lee’s death is that it was totally avoidable. The defendant had been convicted of using his phone at least 6 times prior to the event. Only 6 weeks before Lee’s death he was in front of magistrates pleading hardship if he lost his driving licence. He was, once again, being convicted of using his phone whilst driving and should have been losing his licence due to having too many points. The magistrates chose to allow the defendant to keep his licence. The result of this lenient approach to such a serious offence was the death of Lee Martin.

Texting or talking on the phone whilst driving is extremely dangerous and it is about time the legal system caught up. Lee's death was avoidable. Had the legal system and the magistrates, treated the defendant’s previous persistent offences seriously then our family would have been saved this horrible outcome. Lee Martin was merely cycling along the road, when someone drove into him whilst writing text messages. The law needs to be changed, and sentencing for these offences needs to changed, to help prevent it happening to someone else’s family.”