Man advised not to drive because of eye condition killed woman pedestrian

David Byrne (42) convicted of dangerous driving causing death of woman in Dublin in 2015

The court heard David Byrne (42) of Sunnyhill, Castlemartin Lodge, Kilcullen, Co Kildare, suffered from a condition which causes difficulty seeing in low light and he had been advised not to drive. Photograph:  Collins Courts.

The court heard David Byrne (42) of Sunnyhill, Castlemartin Lodge, Kilcullen, Co Kildare, suffered from a condition which causes difficulty seeing in low light and he had been advised not to drive. Photograph: Collins Courts.

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A postman has been convicted of dangerous driving causing the death of an elderly woman in Dublin almost two and half years ago.

The court heard David Byrne (42) of Sunnyhill, Castlemartin Lodge, Kilcullen, Co Kildare, suffered from a condition which causes difficulty seeing in low light and he had been advised not to drive.

He had pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Patricia Dunne (70) at Collins Avenue East, Killester in Dublin on October 16th, 2015.

He had also pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dishonestly inducing the National Driving Licence Service (NDLS) to issue him with a driving licence on September 30th, 2014. He had further denied making a false or misleading statement while taking out insurance on September 16th, 2015.

The jury of six men and six women took almost three and half hours on day seven of the trial to return a majority verdict to the dangerous driving charge. The jurors also returned unanimous guilty verdicts to the remaining counts.

Judge Patricia Ryan remanded Byrne on continuing bail and adjourned sentencing to May 4th, next. She ordered a victim impact report for that date.

The trial previously heard Ms Dunne was walking home pulling a shopping trolley around midday on the day in question when she began to cross the road.

A van slowed to allow Ms Dunne to cross, but a car driven by Mr Byrne hit her and she was “flung up in the air” before the car came to a stop.

Fionnuala O’Sullivan, prosecuting, told the jury that it was the prosecution case that Byrne suffered from Usher Syndrome Type 2, a condition which causes difficulty seeing in low light and loss of peripheral vision.

“It’s also the prosecution case that as far back as 1997, he was advised by a doctor that he should not be driving,” Ms O’Sullivan said.

“For Mr Byrne to drive with that condition was driving in a manner which was or likely to be a danger to the public. That dangerous driving caused the death of Ms Dunne,” counsel said.

Diagnosed in 1997

The trial heard from a clinical ophthalmologist at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital Research Foundation who confirmed that he diagnosed Byrne as having Usher Syndrome Type 2 in December 1997.

A letter from the same witness, Dr Paul Kenna, read out to the jury stated that Mr Byrne told him he was driving in daylight and also at night and he “strongly advised him” against driving in daylight or at night. “Hopefully he will take this advice,” the letter continued.

Aengus Morrin, an optometrist, told the jury he examined Byrne in June 2012 and confirmed that he had the eye condition. He said he asked the man if he drove and Byrne told him he didn’t drive.

Garda Patrick McIlroy, a collision expert, told the jury he calculated that Mr Byrne was driving at 49 km/hr at the time of impact with Ms Dunne and that she was thrown up in the air at a velocity of 41 km/hr. Garda McIlroy told Ms O’Sullivan that he concluded that when Ms Dunne was visible on the road, having stepped out from between two parked cars, Mr Byrne’s car was 39 meters away.

He said with a normal driver reaction time of 1.5 seconds and the driver slamming on the brakes, the vehicle should have come to a complete stop 3.5 meters away from Ms Dunne, thereby preventing a collision.

The court heard that Ms Dunne was crossing a “busy road” and there was no pedestrian crossing at the time. A pedestrian crossing has since been put in place, the trial heard.

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