Road safety chief's repeat tragedy

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The Independent Online
A German engineer killed the partner of one of Britain's leading road safety campaigners while test driving a car on a public road. Klaus Menk, a Vauxhall motor engineer, was yesterday found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving.

Menk, who could face a jail sentence, was overtaking when he collided with a car driven by motoring journalist Richard Longworth on the B655 near Hexton, Hertfordshire Mr Hexton suffered massive internal injuries and died a week later.

The victim's partner, through a cruel stroke of irony, was Mary Williams, director of the road safety organisation Brake. It was the second time she has been bereaved by road crashes. After yesterday's hearing, she said: "Brake will be actively talking to General Motors (which owns Vauxhall) and asking the company to get involved in our work relating to best training practices. The jury have come to the right verdict. It is no good saying it was just one mistake, when such mistakes devastate lives."

Menk, 48, was one of a team of German engineers from Opel (another GM subsidiary) brought over by GM to carry out comparative tests between Vauxhall production cars and their competitors. The tests involved the engineers repeatedly driving round a 10 mile circuit of B Roads on the Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire border. The trials were carried out in darkness to keep any new models out of the public eye.

The accident happened when Menk, from Frankfurt, pulled out to overtake a Skoda and crashed head-on into Mr Longworth's Vauxhall Nova. He admitted his driving had been careless but denied it was dangerous. He said he had been unaware of a blind spot when he pulled out to overtake.

He was remanded on bail for a pre-sentence report to be prepared but warned that he could be given a prison sentence.