Retired man’s momentary driving lapse had ‘devastating consequences’

87-year-old Michael Culligan banned from driving for six years after crash

Michael Culligan was on his way from mass to visit his wife’s grave on October 4th, 2015 when his car veered six inches into the opposite driving lane and crashed into a motorbike.

Michael Culligan was on his way from mass to visit his wife’s grave on October 4th, 2015 when his car veered six inches into the opposite driving lane and crashed into a motorbike.

 

A judge has imposed a nine-month suspended prison term on an 87-year-old driver whose momentary lapse in concentration on his way to visit his wife’s grave “had devastating consequences” for a motorcyclist.

At Ennis Circuit Court on Monday, Judge Gerald Keys imposed the suspended prison term, a six-year driving ban and a fine of €500 on Michael Culligan, a retired farmer.

Mr Culligan, who will be 88 this Wednesday, was on his way from mass to visit his wife’s grave on October 4th, 2015 when his car veered six inches into the opposite driving lane.

This resulted in a collision with the oncoming motorbike being driven by Gerard Dineen, who almost lost his life and suffered life-changing injuries as a result of the crash.

Prior to the crash Mr Culligan, of Burrane Upper, Knock, Kilrush in west Clare, had a blemish-free driving record for the previous 60 years.

In the case, Mr Culligan pleaded guilty to careless driving causing seriously bodily harm to Mr Dineen.

Counsel for Mr Culligan said there were no aggravating factors in the case and that speed was not a factor.

Judge Keys said the impact of the accident has had “devastating consequences” for Mr Dineen.

Brain injury

Mr Dineen suffered a brain injury in the crash and a very bad injury to his right hand.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Dineen said the impact of the accident “has been totally life-changing” for him.

“There are times that I just can’t believe that this has happened to me and I will never be able to accept it. I feel useless now.”

Mr Dineen went on: “I haven’t worked since the accident and it’s most likely that I’ll never work again. It’s put a huge financial strain on my wife.”

He said he now needs constant full-time care as he cannot cook for himself or do everyday household jobs.

“I was used to to working all my life earning a week’s wage and now because of the accident, I am in receipt of social welfare through no fault of my own.”

He said he now only has the use of his left hand as his right hand was badly injured from the accident.

“My brain function is no longer as sharp as it was before the accident,” he said.

“I’m very impulsive, short-tempered, irritable and I suffer from terrible mood swings. I also suffer from sleep disturbance at night.”

“Unfortunately, my wife, who is my primary carer and my family bear the brunt of this erratic behaviour.”

“It does upset me to think that I am putting them through this hell but I can’t just can’t help my behaviour at times. I feel that I have no control over it. It really gets me down at times.”

He said: “To sum up, my life has been a nightmare since the accident.”