Father of School Boy Calls For Improved Cycle Safety Training
The father of a 17-year-old boy who suffered serious brain injuries when a taxi ploughed into him, flinging him from his bicycle, is calling for improved cycle awareness training in the UK driving test as the motorist accepted liability, nearly five years after the life-threatening collision.
Sixth form student Zakariah Churchyard, from Dunstable, was just 12 when he was hit by a taxi travelling between 48mph and 50mph in a 40mph zone, as he was cycling to meet his friend at a nearby bike track in April 2007.
The triplet suffered devastating head injuries and three fractures to his right leg which left him fighting for his life on life support for five days and requiring nearly two months in hospital.
He is likely to need care and continued rehabilitation when he leaves home as a result of the injuries he suffered, but Zakariah’s family are proud of his determination to get his life back on track as he works towards gaining his A levels.
Now, with the help of serious injury experts at Irwin Mitchell, who are working with the family to ensure Zakariah receives the support required for him to live his adult life as independently as possible, the Churchyards have won their long battle for justice with the taxi driver, Mr Kamar Aftab, finally accepting liability, just two weeks before the case was due to go to trial.
An independent witness travelling in the opposite direction said he saw Zakariah travelling close to the kerb and the taxi driver leaning to the left and not paying attention to the road.
Collision reconstruction experts believe the taxi driver may have left as little as 15cm between his vehicle and Zakariah, throwing him from his bike when he ploughed into him.
Zakariah was rushed to the paediatric intensive care unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where he spent an agonising five days on life support and a month of treatment before being transferred to Luton and Dunstable Hospital for further care.
Since the accident Zakariah, who lives at home with his dad Garry, 58, mum Eva, an Accountant, and brother and sister, has struggled with everyday tasks and has difficulty with his short term memory. He is often unable to concentrate during school lessons and struggles with organisation and problem solving.
Zakariah’s dad Garry, a Maintenance Officer at Central Bedfordshire College said: “Zakariah has spent his teenage years struggling through school and finds previously simple tasks difficult as a result of the taxi driver’s lack of awareness. He’s now very forgetful and will leave the house without a coat when it’s freezing or forget his keys and school bag.
“The driver accepting liability brings some justice, but we hope lessons are learnt by not just him, but all road users. As more people use bicycles to travel we’d like to see improved training in driving tests on how vehicles and bikes can safely share the road. A cycle lane may have also helped protect Zakariah and we’d like to see local councils invest in more of these, particularly on routes leading to children’s play areas.
“We won’t know the full extent of the long-term damage caused by the accident for some time as the full challenge will come when Zakariah enters the real world after school. He’s working hard towards gaining A Levels and his mum and I are proud of his determination to get his life back on track.”
Chani Dhaliwal, a serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s London office, who is representing the family, said: “Time and time again we deal with cases where cyclists have been seriously injured, through no fault of their own, and lessons need to be learnt to prevent repeat accidents happening.
“The driver of the taxi should be an experienced road user, fully aware of the necessary distance to leave between his vehicle and potential hazards and it’s devastating for Zakariah that his life has been turned upside down because this man didn’t take more care.
“Zakariah has thankfully received some justice with the taxi driver accepting liability and we’ll now work with the family to ensure he is provided with the funds and support necessary to ensure his future care, rehabilitation and help him live as independently as possible.
“More than 27,000 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured in the last 10 years and this figure cannot keep rising. We echo the family’s call for further training in driving tests on cycle safety in the hope better knowledge will reduce cases like this.”
If you’ve been injured in a road traffic accident whilst cycling, our No Win No Fee solicitors could help you claim compensation. See our Cycling Accident Compensation page for more information.