A dangerous driver who swerved into the path of an oncoming vehicle on the A9 was “slumped forward like he was asleep” in the moments before the crash, a court has heard.
Stephen Hughes, who was driving a blue Fiat 500, crossed into the path of an oncoming Mitsubishi Outlander near the Carrbridge junction.
Eyewitnesses said Hughes’ brake lights never came on and he didn’t respond to the oncoming driver who had been flashing his lights at him.
The 37-year-old pled guilty to a single charge of causing serious injury by dangerous driving during the incident just before 2pm on October 3 2018.
Fiscal depute Robert Weir told Inverness Sheriff Court that a witness, who was travelling behind Hughes’ car saw it “veer over to the right side of the road, almost as if it was going to take the junction” just before the impact.
Stephen Hughes ‘made no effort to avoid’ hitting his A9 crash victim
“However, it did not slow down,” Weir said, adding: “And she did not see any brake lights on the Fiat.
“She then saw the Fiat 500 hit the witness’ vehicle, which was travelling south towards them”.
He added that the witness reported: “There was no chance for [the oncoming driver] to do anything”.
The driver had, at first, thought the Fiat was trying to overtake.
Mr Weir explained: “He saw the Fiat 500 travelling towards him in a queue of northbound traffic and then swerve out into his carriageway.
“He initially thought it was trying to overtake. He flashed his lights at it, braked and moved to the left, but the Fiat 500 did not react and went straight into the front driver’s side of his vehicle. The airbags were activated.
“Just prior to the collision, the witness saw the driver of the Fiat 500. He was slumped forward like he was asleep and made no effort to avoid him,” Mr Weir added.
Dangerous driver left victim barely able to work and unable to walk without help
Sheriff Eilidh MacDonald was told that video of the crash had been recorded on a dashcam.
“This footage clearly shows the accused Stephen Hughes drifting straight over to the opposing carriageway and colliding with the witness,” the fiscal depute said.
An air ambulance helicopter, along with the Scottish Ambulance Service, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Police Scotland all attended the scene.
Both drivers were taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.
Hughes gave police a negative result during a breath test for drink-driving.
The driver of the Outlander suffered a pinched nerve on his spine that left him with little feeling in his right leg.
The court heard that he is now only able to walk when using crutches to support himself.
And he has been declared disabled and has only been able to return to work for just two days a week.
Dangerous driver had already given up driving voluntarily, Inverness court hears
Solicitor Stephen McQuillan, defending Hughes, told the court that, in the aftermath of the accident, his client had stopped driving.
He claimed that Hughes had feared a medical condition may have contributed to the cause of the serious road traffic collision.
“He surrendered his licence because he couldn’t get an answer as to what happened that day,” Mr McQuillan said.
He added that his client – a former army soldier – had visited his doctor in 2017 and 2018 with some concerns but no mention was made of his ability to drive.
“This was the first occasion there had been a loss of consciousness,” the lawyer said.
Sheriff Eilidh MacDonald called for reports on Hughes to be produced ahead of sentencing him.
She told him: “This is a serious offence. I have to treat it seriously. Somebody was seriously injured”.
The sheriff then disqualified Hughes, of Stewart Avenue, Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, from driving – with immediate effect – for a period of time still to be determined at sentencing.
He was bailed to re-appear in the dock in the new year.
For all the latest court cases in Inverness as well as crime and breaking incidents, join our new Facebook group.