A new teenage driver caused the death of his 16-year-old best friend following a double crash on a main Highland road that also left another motorist injured months after he obtained his licence.
Connor Lawless was driving at excessive speed for the circumstances on the A9 in a Vauxhall Corsa near to North Kessock, Inverness, when he failed to comply with road signs and to use a designated filter lane for vehicles turning right and was struck by a following Nissan Juke when he braked heavily.
Lawless, who was 17 at the time, then drove onto the southbound carriageway and collided with a Volkswagen Polo being driven by Alexandrina Bain, who was unable to avoid the crash.
The front seat passenger in Lawless’ vehicle, Gregor McIntosh, suffered fatal injuries in the collision and later died at Raigmore Hospital, in Inverness.
Lawless, now 20, of Culduthel Mains Gardens, Inverness, and the driver of the Nissan Juke Stuart Thomson, 50, a rail signaller of Fairmuir Road, Muir of Ord, were charged with causing his death by dangerous driving following the fatal incident.
But after the Crown amended the charges at the High Court in Edinburgh, Lawless on Thursday admitted causing his friend’s death by driving without due care and attention.
Thomson pled guilty to a much-reduced charge of driving carelessly by driving at excessive speed in the circumstances and failing to maintain a safe distance on December 20 in 2019 at the time of the incident.
Advocate depute Stephanie Ross said: “Gregor McIntosh was 16 years old at the time of his death and was the best friend of the accused Connor Lawless. He resided at home with his parents and sister.”
Ms Ross said the teenager was training to be a carpenter and joiner and was in good health.
The prosecutor told the court that Lawless was an apprentice engineer and added: “He obtained his driving licence on July 8 in 2019, five months before the collision, and was therefore classed as a new driver.”
She said on the day of the crashes, Lawless had picked up his friend from his home about 6pm. He was driving north as they approached the junction with the B9161 Munlochy junction with other cars following.
Ms Ross said: “Northbound traffic wishing to turn from the A9 onto the B9161 must enter a right turn filter lane to the offside of the carriageway; said filter lane is 250 metres long.”
“There is an advanced turning sign to the nearside of the northbound carriageway in advance of the filter lane and then a second sign as you approach the filter lane. There is then signage at the turning itself,” she said.
She said that at the start of the filter lane there was no indication from the Corsa driver that he was intending to turn right, but he subsequently braked sharply with no prior warning.
Following motorists saw the Juke being driven by Thomson also brake sharply and steer to the offside in a bid to avoid the Corsa, but it collided with the car driven by Lawless. Other drivers also had to take evasive action.
After the Corsa was struck it continued in an arc crossing into the southbound lane before it was struck by the Polo driven by Alexandrina Bain, then aged 77, who suffered fractures in the crash.
Ms Ross said: “She was driving at around 60 mph when the Corsa came out in front of her from the junction without warning. She was unable to avoid colliding with the Corsa.”
Accident investigators concluded that Lawless had been intent on turning right into the junction for the B9161 road but had overrun the markings to negotiate the junction properly.
They said the first collision was caused by the Corsa braking suddenly and that Thomson tried to avoid a collision but was unable to because he was travelling too close to Lawless’ vehicle.
The prosecutor said: “The collision investigators have now confirmed that the collision between the Corsa and the Juke played no part in the second collision.”
“The path the Corsa took thereafter is due to the input of the driver. The Corsa was steered to the right and travelled through the junction,” she said.
Solicitor advocate Iain McSporran QC, for Thomson, told the court: “The collision investigators have now confirmed that the collision between the Corsa and Juke played no causal part in the second collision.”
The judge, Lord Richardson, deferred sentence for the preparation of background reports. The case is due to next call at the High Court in Aberdeen next month.