Jeep driver's 'incredulous' overtaking sparked near fatal collision

Lee Parker.
Lee Parker.

A woman’s driving skills averted a potential triple tragedy after a devil-may- care Jeep driver shot straight over the brow of a hill on the wrong side of the road and ploughed into her car.

Lee Parker, 44, overtook a car as he approached the top of a “blind summit” on the notorious A171 near Whitby.

Approaching in the opposite direction was a small, two-seater Smart Roadster driven by 55-year- old Clare Butterfield, who was suddenly confronted with the glaring headlights of a Jeep Renegade.

The imposing 4x4 SUV was heading straight for her, but Ms Butterfield performed a drastic, potentially-life-saving, swerve to the left at the last moment. She couldn’t prevent a collision, but avoided a potential head-on crash which could have had “catastrophic” consequences, York Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Austin Newman said the tiny Smart car swung around 180 degrees following impact and ended up in a ditch, a mangled wreck.

Ms Butterfield, from Whitby, was trapped inside the vehicle and had to be cut free from the wreckage by firefighters before being taken to hospital on a spinal board. She suffered whiplash and severe bruising but tests revealed there was no spinal damage.

Parker, who manages a casino in Scarborough, was arrested and charged with dangerous driving. He admitted the offence and appeared for sentence on Monday staring down the barrel of an immediate jail sentence.

The accident occurred at about 8pm on January 3 on a dark stretch of moorland road between Whitby and Scaling Dam.

Mr Newman said Parker overtook the car in front of him despite a solid white line prohibiting overtaking.

“Ms Butterfield… had just emerged over the brow of the blind summit to be confronted by two sets of lights coming towards her on her side of the road,” added the barrister.

“She tried to pull quickly to her near side. Unfortunately, there was no time to avoid the inevitable collision. The two vehicles collided and the defendant’s vehicle span off through at least 90 degrees to the near side of the road. Her vehicle was spun through between 90 and 180 degrees into a ditch further down the road.”

Both vehicles were badly damaged and Ms Butterfield’s car was “caved in” at one side, leaving her trapped inside.

Mr Newman said the driver who was overtaken by Parker was “incredulous” at the death-defying manoeuvre.

He said Ms Butterfield was now seeking compensation for loss of earnings and irrevocable damage to her car.

Parker, who was also taken to hospital, told officers he had come up behind what he thought was a highways-maintenance vehicle travelling at about 40mph when he decided to overtake, but “misjudged the speed”.

Defence barrister Glen Parsons said Parker, a married father-of- two of Hoskins Lane, Middlesbrough, had led a hitherto blameless life and had held a clean driving licence for 10 years.

He had worked in the casino business for 20 years but his manager’s licence, job and family’s financial security would be at stake if he were sent to jail.

Judge Paul Batty QC slammed Parker for his “shocking piece of driving” and said Ms Butterfield had performed a “remarkable piece of driving” to avoid a head-on collision.

He told the casino boss: “What possessed you to overtake in this fashion, goodness only knows. You were obviously in a hurry for some reason, but the consequences of that manoeuvre were utterly terrible.

“With great presence of mind, (Ms Butterfield), at the last minute, was able to steer so as to avoid a head-on collision which would - for you and for her, possibly even for the vehicle you were overtaking - been fatal.”

Mr Batty said Parker’s driving was so dangerous that a custodial sentence was inevitable, but because of his lack of previous convictions, his employment and family commitments, he could “just” spare him a spell behind bars.

Parker was given a 12-month suspended jail term and 30-month driving ban. He was also ordered to carry out 200 hours’ unpaid work and pay £250 prosecution costs.