A Broadway man is suing the county council, and ultimately the government, over the death of his son. If David Owen wins it could force a complete makeover of the country’s highways, potentially costing an incalculable amount of money to local authorities.
Twenty-one-year-old Daryl Owen, a student at Loughborough University and oldest son of David and Theresa Owen, was killed after his motorbike hit a raised cats eye and he was thrown into the path of an oncoming bus on the A439 near Stratford in November last year. His father, a retired engineer, is now fighting the authorities after discovering the cats eyes in the vicinity, including the one his son hit, protruded from the road much higher than legislation allowed. He is suing for ‘malfeasance in office’ (official misconduct) and has the support of the Motorcycle Action Group.
“Daryl was killed because the cats eyes where he came off his bike are far higher than they should be. I have a large portfolio of evidence with photographs showing the height of the cats eyes there and a response from the Department of Transport confirming what the maximum height should be. Legislation says this type should be no higher than 25mm but the one Daryl hit and most of the others along that stretch of road are a lot higher measuring more than 35mm. While they remain that way they pose a danger to all motorcyclists. Every person seeing those raised cats eye blocks is shocked at the height. The same situation may extend across the country and the only way to help prevent further accidents of this nature is to have them all replaced.
“I know it is sub-contractors who replace the road surfaces and put in the cats eyes, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the county council to ensure the work is signed off as being completed correctly. It may be the case that some 63.855 billion cats eyes have been installed on UK roads in a way which results in serious injury or death to innocent motorcyclists.” – Mr Owen
Mr Opik told the Journal: “I really want to help Mr Owen in his cause. Cats eyes and other dangers in the road, such as manhole covers and uneven surfaces are a very real problem to motorcyclists and have been the cause of many deaths. It seems that councils don’t take their responsibilities for ensuring the road is safe for bikers, and cyclists too, seriously. I am trying to build up a database of motorcyclists who have been killed because of road problems but often these incidents are buried with the rider because the police will just say the motorcyclist lost control. It is not about a litigation culture, it’s about life and death and a lot of deaths are avoidable.”
An inquest was held on March 18 in Warwickshire by assistant coroner Jason Pegg which concluded that Daryl Owen was killed as a result of a road traffic collision. Mr Owen said an absence of anyone with motorcycle experience at the inquest made it impossible for the coroner to take the cats eyes into account.
A Warwickshire County Council spokesperson said: “We are not aware of any legal proceedings having been started but Mr Owen has written to us about his belief that the cats eyes project too far above the road surface and he also raised this at the inquest. We do not believe that the cats eyes breach any legal requirements and neither the police nor the coroner found that they contributed to the death of his son.”