An elderly aristocrat caused a three vehicle crash when she drove through a closed junction on her way to a morning gym session, a jury has heard.
Lady Susan Zetland, 77, was on her way to a dawn workout in a hotel gym when she came to a junction close to 18th century Aske Hall in North Yorkshire, the family seat of her husband Lord Mark Dundas, the fourth Marquess of Zetland.
Although there were signs and cones showing the junction was not open for drivers turning right, Lady Zetland paid no heed and ploughed on regardless, it is alleged.
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She set out onto the A66 trans-Pennine trunk road, almost pulling into the path of an articulated lorry heading west.
Undeterred by her near miss, Lady Zetland again set out from the junction in her blue £30,000 Subaru Outback 4×4 car – and this time she pulled straight in front of an oncoming vehicle.
Her car was struck by the Nissan Qashqai, which spun her across into the eastbound carriageway of the busy arterial route, where she was struck by an oncoming lorry.
The marchionesse escaped serious injury and later admitted to police that she had not been driving as carefully as she should.
However prosecutor Paul Newcombe told Teesside Crown Court that her driving was worse than she admitted and the manoeuvre was dangerous.
Lady Zetland, dressed in a floral tunic and a pink scarf with matching trousers, listened from the dock as Mr Newcombe described to jurors how she ignored the signs and cones at the Hargill Junction, a short journey from the 18th Century Georgian manor she calls home.
He told the court: “She ignored the signs that said the junction was closed. She ignored the cones on her side and in the centre of the road and she failed to keep a proper lookout for traffic.
“She nearly hit an articulated lorry just in front of the Nissan Qashqai, but she did not take a breath and realise she was not keeping a proper lookout – the very next car she pulled right out in front of.”
The video shot from the Nissan – driven by a Mr O’Reilley – showed the blue Subaru pull in front of him with no chance of avoiding collision.
Mr Newcombe said: “She drove straight out into the path of the Qashqai, the driver had no chance to avoid a collision. He struck her car and she was spun into another lane and hit by a truck, which also had a Dashcam.”
He told the court: “She says her driving was only careless. The prosecution say this is not a case of careless driving or a momentary lapse of attention, it is driving that falls far below the standard of the competent and careful driver.”
The court was told the accident happened at 6.06am on July 4th last year.
Lady Zetland had left Aske Hall, which is just outside Richmond, North Yorks, and was on her way to the gym at the nearby Scotch Corner Hotel.
Her journey meant that she had to turn right onto the A66, when, the prosecution says, it was clear the junction was only open for vehicles turning left and heading west.
Mr Newcombe said a line of cones curving to the left made it obvious to the careful motorist that only a left turn was possible and signs made it clear the junction was closed for vehicles heading east until July 7th, three days after the incident.
Lady Zetland admitted to police that the seconds leading up to the crash “all becomes a bit fuzzy” in her memory.
She gave evidence in court, telling the jury: “I don’t remember looking right and that is extraordinary because I know that traffic comes very fast from the right.”
She said the signs on her short journey to the A66 had been there for some time warning that the trunk road was closed from that direction – even though it that was not the case, it was still open westbound.
She said that morning a pick- up truck was ahead of her and went through a gap in the cones to go straight across the junction or turn right.
Lady Zetland told the court: “I had been used to all the signs and notices being there and nothing happening.
“It seemed like forever, they had been there several weeks.
“The van in front of me went through and perhaps I just followed.
“I don’t remember pulling out, the next thing I remember was being… bang!”
“You just do follow other vehicles don’t you?”
Prosecutor Paul Newcombe suggested: “It might have been better to make your own judgement?”
Lady Zetland replied: “Many things might have been better on reflection.”
Lady Zetland, who was accompanied at court by her 79-year-old husband, denies dangerous driving and the trial continues.