M-way lorry driver was watching TV

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A lorry driver veered across motorway lanes as he watched episodes of Battlestar Galactica while behind the wheel of his 38-tonne truck, a court heard today.

Sci-fi fan Benjamin Trotman, 37, had one eye on the road and the other on the cult TV series showing on a 14-inch laptop on his dashboard, Penrith Magistrates' Court was told.

The father of two motored along at 55mph for 25 miles on the M6 in Cumbria veering from the hard-shoulder to the middle lane, slowing down and speeding up as he followed the action, magistrates heard.

Another trucker, who could see his cab lit up and figures acting on the screen, sounded his horn before calling police.

A traffic officer pulled Trotman over and found a laptop running on his dashboard with Battlestar Galactica films on it, magistrates were told.

The cult show was first broadcast in America 30 years ago, telling the story of a group of humans aboard a starship searching for the mysterious planet Earth after their homeland is destroyed by intelligent robots, the Cylons.

Trotman, of The Hobbins, Bridgnorth, Shropshire, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to dangerous driving on the M6 near Kendal in December last year.

Today he was banned from the road for 15 months, given 225 hours community service and ordered to pay £546 costs.

Adrienne Harris, prosecuting, told the court traffic policeman Sgt Paul Brown could see Trotman's truck veering across the road, pulled him over and went to investigate.

"There was a laptop on the dashboard. A number of files under the name Battlestar Galactica were displayed and the media application was running," she said.

Another trucker, Brian Taylor, was also driving north on the M6 in the early hours of December 11, last year and called police after spotting Trotman's Poundstretcher lorry repeatedly driving across lanes.

He pulled alongside and sounded his horn but his action had no effect.

Mr Taylor could see a "blue hue" in the cab and three men on the laptop screen on the dashboard moving around and it was "obviously a film," Ms Harris added.

Nigel Beeson, defending, said Trotman had no criminal record but had been fined four times for speeding, and was now unemployed after losing his HGV licence.

"It is a single if lengthy act of irresponsibility," he added.

"You don't need to tell motorists watching a DVD while driving is dangerous."

Passing sentence, chairman of the bench John Findlay JP, said "no one could complain" if he sent Trotman to prison, but instead decided on a community penalty.

He added: "You were so distracted by what you were watching, that your driving fell far below the standard expected of a professional driver.

"Your driving was criminally irresponsible and could have had appalling consequences."