A VAN driver who slammed into a traffic sign, seriously injuring a pedestrian, told a jury he was driving dangerously because he feared for his life.
Louise Owen, 39, was with her sons, aged five and 18, on Albert Road, Farnworth, when Daniel Gardner’s Renault Trafic van turned around the corner and hit the sign, which hit her on the head.
Ms Owen suffered serious head injuries and spent three weeks in hospital with bleeding brain and multiple fractures to her skull and face.
Gardner, 32, is charged with causing serious injury by reckless driving on January 15 of last year. He pleaded not guilty, saying that while his driving was dangerous, he was under duress at the time.
Testifying in his own defense at Bolton Crown Court, he stressed that he was unaware that someone had been injured when he left without stopping and that he feared being attacked by men in a truck that he had just damaged.
Gardner’s van had hit the rearview mirror of a recovery truck, but he did not stop to exchange the details of his insurance and he followed.
“I should have stopped but I didn’t,” Gardner admitted in court.
Gardner, of Moorfield Grove, Bolton told the jury he was scared when men in the truck got out of their vehicle and tried to open the doors of his van.
“I was scared. I’m not going to lie,” he added.
The roller shutter engineer said one of the men was “angry and aggressive”.
“I told him to calm down and I’ll give you the details of my insurance,” Gardner said.
But he then alleged that one of the men pulled out a kitchen knife.
“I was really panicked at the time. I just put my foot down and walked away, ”Gardner said.
“If I had gone out, they would have either beaten or stabbed me. ”
The court heard how he climbed onto the sidewalk and attempted to squeeze between a store wall and a car at the crossroads in front of him, before heading towards Albert Road just after 3:45 p.m.
Rob Hall, the district attorney, asked Gardner why he didn’t go straight to the police station or call 999.
The court heard how the driver abandoned the van, whose tire was damaged from the collision with the sign, half a mile away on Presto Street, and drove to his girlfriend’s home in Little Hulton .
Police found him less than 45 minutes later and were able to trace him back to the company Gardner worked for.
Gardner claimed he couldn’t call the police for help after the incident because his phone battery was dead, but during cross-examination he admitted that shortly after parking the pickup truck he had called a friend in order to get her to pick him up and spoke to his girlfriend’s sister.
While at his girlfriend’s house, Gardner received a phone call from his boss at 5:38 p.m. telling him that police were investigating a collision the van had been in.
Then, just before 6:10 p.m., Gardner called 101 to report that he had been threatened by a man with a knife following a collision.
The trial continues.