Driver killed pillion passenger after wife's phone call distraction

Liam Scott died after the car driven by Gavin Aitken smashed into the bike while he was distracted by a voicemail from his wife.

Coach driver Gavin Aitken killed motorbike sidecar passenger after being distracted by wife’s phone call SNS Group

A coach driver who killed a pillion passenger on a motorbike after he was distracted following a phone call from his wife has been jailed for three years.

The car driven by Gavin Aitken ploughed into the motorcycle on the A82 road near Balloch, in West Dunbartonshire, on August 31 in 2020, resulting in the death of bike passenger Liam Scott, 21, and serious injury to the rider Stewart McKenzie, 23.   

A judge told Aitken, 49, at the High Court in Edinburgh: “You accept you were distracted by a voicemail message received on the mobile phone before the collision.”

Lord Young said that victim impact statements prepared for the court set out “the enduring pain and loss” that has been suffered as a result of the incident.

Mr McKenzie slowed his Suzuki motorbike to make right turn near to the junction of the access road at Auchenheglish Lodges when it was struck by the company car being driven by Aitken.

The judge said that Aitken had time to react to the situation in front of him but failed to do so.

Lord Young said there was no question of speeding on his part nor was he even distracted for a prolonged period of time by the mobile phone.

But the judge said the case was aggravated by the victims being vulnerable road users travelling on a motorbike and that in addition to the death of Mr Scott there was serious injury caused to his friend.

Lord Young said: “You stopped at the scene of the accident and your wife called the emergency services.”

The judge said that Aitken, a first offender, was assessed as “at the lowest risk of reoffending”. He said a background report on him suggested that a non-custodial sentence might be appropriate but added that was not what he was going to do.   

He ordered that the coach driver should be disqualified from driving for 78 months.

Aitken, of Alexandria in West Dunbartonshire, earlier admitted causing the death of Mr Scott, from Irvine, in Ayrshire, and serious injury to Mr McKenzie by driving dangerously. 

He drove the VW Golf car while failing to keep proper observations of the road ahead and to react to the presence of the motorbike.

Mr Scott suffered a fatal head injury after he was thrown into the windscreen of the car. He died on September 2 in 2020 at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow. Mr McKenzie underwent treatment for a fractured and dislocated thumb.

Aitken had finished his shift with a bus firm and was travelling in the VW Golf to return to the firm’s depot. He stopped enroute to meet his wife and she followed in her Vauxhall Corsa.

Advocate depute Louise Beattie said Aitken had received an incoming call from his wife which went to voicemail.

The prosecutor said: “Aitken accepts that he was distracted by the phone call. This was an avoidable distraction which caused him to take his eyes off the road.”

“He became involved with the phone in the crucial seconds leading up to the approach to the junction,” she said.

Defence counsel Ronnie Renucci KC said that Aitken was fully aware of the consequences of his actions and the impact on others, particularly the family of Mr Scott.

He said: “He has shown genuine remorse throughout”. He added: “I am instructed on his behalf to offer sincere apologies to the family of Mr Scott and indeed to the other complainer.

“He expresses deep regret that his actions on that day brought about the death of Mr Scott. He recognises and accepts that is something he will have to live with for the rest of his life,” the defence counsel said.

Mr Renucci submitted that although Aitken had pled guilty to causing death by dangerous driving his case was at the lower end of such offences.

He said there was no drink or drugs involved, there was no speeding and it did not involve prolonged course of bad driving.

He said: “It is accepted that the dangerous element of the driving arose from the period of inattention.”

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