AN ELDERLY woman mowed down a pensioner on a pedestrian crossing after mistaking the accelerator pedal in her automatic car for the brake.

Joan Keegan, who uses a three-wheel walker, was trying to park her car in a disabled bay outside a fish and chip restaurant when it suddenly shot backwards and veering left over the pedestrian crossing.

Patricia Emmett, who was crossing the road with her husband, was struck and dragged along under the car as it demolished a bollard and then came to rest after knocking over a traffic light.

Mrs Emmett, aged 76, suffered multiple fractures, including two broken arms and a broken pelvis.

CCTV of the collision was shown in court which Judge Timothy Stead described as “shocking”.

The court heard how Keegan did not initially accept blame, claiming instead that her Vauxhall Viva must have suffered mechanical failure, but then admitted blame and pleaded guilty to causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Zoe Dawson, prosecuting, told how Keegan, of Shaftsbury Road, Orrell, Wigan, had driven friends to Bolton to go for lunch at the Olympus chippy on June 6 last year.

The disabled bays were full so she parked elsewhere and the friends went inside for their meal.

Keegan then noticed that the disabled bay had become free and so fetched her Vauxhall Viva and drove it to the bay nearest the Olympus door. After parking Keegan slid her seat back, undid her belt and started to get out of the car, but then decided to adjust the vehicle’s position in the bay.

She shut the door but did not pull her seat forward again before starting to reverse.

“It moved slowly before suddenly jolting backwards and to the left,” said Miss Dawson.

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The vehicle turned from the curb and careered out at high speed towards a pedestrian crossing.

One of those crossing was Mrs Emmett, who was walking to a bus stop after also having been to the Olympus for a meal with her husband, Jim.

The pensioner was dragged under the car and the wheels ran over her.

She was rushed to the critical care unit at Manchester Royal infirmary where she was treated for injuries including a punctured chest wall, internal bleeding and fractures including nine broken ribs, two broken arms and a fractured pelvis.

Metal plates had to be inserted in her arms and shoulder and she spent three months in hospital.

In a victim impact statement read out in court she said: “I feel like a burden to Jim now because I cannot do a lot of things.

“I’m very upset that I have lost my independence. The crash has impacted on my and Jim’s life massively.

“I will never understand ‘why me?’”

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Keegan sat in the dock with her head bowed as details of the collision were read out.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Miss Dawson added that when questioned by police Keegan did not immediately have insight into the fact that the standard of her driving had caused the collision.

She claimed that she had had her foot on the brake when the car shot backwards, but the court heard that it was Keegan’s usual, but wrong practice, to use one foot for the accelerator and the other for the brake in her automatic car.

But no brake lights had come on as she reversed.

“She accepted that it was possibly because she had hit the wrong pedal,” said Miss Dawson.

Martin Pizzey, defending, said Keegan had been driving for 40 years without any previous incident.

Mr Pizzey added: “She says her usual manner of driving would be very cautious and slow.

“There is no history, or any suggestion, that her driving was wanton, furious, negligent or careless up to this point.

“What is without doubt is her level of remorse.”

He said that Keegan prays for the victim of the crash every day and had been diagnosed as suffering from the symptoms of PTSD.

Although she replaced her damaged car, she has now given it up and relies instead on lifts from family and friends.

“It may mean that she never drives again for the rest of her life,” said Mr Pizzey.

Judge Timothy Stead sentenced Keegan to 10 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, banned her from driving for five years and ordered that, if she wishes to reapply for a driving licence, she will have to pass an extended retest first.

She must also pay £340 towards prosecution costs plus a £115 victim surcharge.

Judge Stead said: “By far the most important concern of this court is the dreadful injuries to Mrs Emmett.”

He added that Keegan “fully appreciates the seriousness of her wrongdoing.

“This court cannot here a case of this kind and view the evidence of the collision of a vehicle and a pedestrian without having overwhelming feelings of sympathy for the victim, who was herself in her mid 70s.

“She was struck by a vehicle in circumstances which are horrible to view.

“The impact on her has been profound.”

He added that Keegan had not been deliberately driving dangerously.

“This was a parking manoeuvre which when particularly wrong,” he said, adding that Keegan had taken a risk by not properly adjusting her seat before driving.