A Clitheroe taxi passenger heard the driver snoring and looked across to see him asleep behind the wheel.
Blackburn magistrates heard James Gary Sharp had “nodded off” briefly twice before stopping at a level crossing where his head fell fully onto his chest, his eyes closed and he was snoring.
And the court heard that two weeks earlier Sharp had been on his way to collect a fare when he crashed into a parked car, a lapse he blamed on fatigue.
Sharp (49), of the Cross Keys Hotel, St James Street, Burnley, pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention on September 25th last year. But he pleaded not guilty to charges of dangerous driving and driving without insurance on September 10th. The magistrates found him not guilty of dangerous driving, but guilty of the alternative of driving without due care and attention. The insurance charge was dismissed. He was fined £110 with £105 costs and his licence endorsed with seven penalty points.
Mr Philip Hall (prosecuting) said on September 25th Sharp was driving his taxi along Greenacre Street in Clitheroe carrying a female passenger who had booked a taxi from Tiger Taxis 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.
The earlier incident happened in Moor Lane after Sharp had driven off the Sainsbury’s car park.
The prosecution case for the damngerous driving charge was that Sharp’s driving had fallen well below the standard expected, but Mr Philip Turner (defending) 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 incident 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 that that 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.
Mr Turner 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, she reported it to the police.
“The taxi licensing authority suspended his permit and he took no issue with that,” said Mr Turner.
“He will not be taking fares again until he has been certified as fit by his GP.”
James Sharp leaving Blackburn Magistrates’ Court