A man who caused the death of two passengers by falling asleep at the wheel and crashing into a lorry on the M26 has been sentenced to prison.

Nigel Butler, 58, was driving his red Maxus Van on the coastbound carriageway of the M26 near Wrotham on 15 October 2020. He had two passengers in the vehicle, both men aged 22 and 44. As he approached a junction with the M20, he failed to notice a lorry that was slowing down for some roadworks and hit it from behind at full speed. The two passengers died at the scene and Butler suffered serious injuries.

Butler told the police he had no memory of the incident. He had been suffering from excessive daytime sleepiness for years but had not sought medical help or informed the DVLA. He was later diagnosed with sleep apnoea, a condition that causes breathing problems during sleep and can affect alertness.

Butler, from Sutton Valence, pleaded guilty to two counts of causing death by careless driving at Maidstone Crown Court. On Friday 21 July 2023, he was given a jail term of two years and three months. He was also banned from driving for five years and will have to take an extended retest before he can drive again.

PC Mel Day, who investigated the case, said: ‘This was a tragic incident in which two men needlessly lost their lives and their families are now mourning the loss of their loved ones. Butler was aware he was regularly feeling excessively tired and drowsy. He failed to seek professional help or advice for this, which meant when he started driving he was a potential risk to other road users. He will now have to live with the knowledge that his actions led to the deaths of his two passengers. This should serve as a warning to all motorists that if they have an illness or condition that might impair their ability to drive safely, they should not get behind the wheel. In these circumstances they have an absolute duty to seek medical advice and inform the DVLA.’

Drivers who have a ‘notifiable’ medical condition or disability that could affect their driving are advised to notify the DVLA and get professional advice. More information can be found here.

Drivers who feel fatigued or drowsy during long journeys are also reminded to take a break and use service stations if needed. Driving on the hard shoulder is not allowed and can be dangerous.

By Ed

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