Nine Penalty Points and £1875 Fine for Hay Fever Sufferer

An Edinburgh crash, in June of 2020, has landed the driver with a hefty fine and nine penalty points on his license.

Alexander Harkness, 29, said the smash at Edinburgh’s City Bypass was due to a sneezing fit brought on by hay fever. Distracted by the sneezes, Harkness didn’t notice the traffic slowing down ahead and ultimately ran his Peugeot van into a car, forcing it off the road before hitting an SUV where both passengers were “violently jolted forward by the impact”.

Three ambulances and several police cars attended the scene while the busy rush hour traffic was brought to a standstill. Both occupants of the SUV were taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Driver of the SUV, Maxine Alexander, suffered bruising and a trapped nerve while passenger Jacqueline Hardy endured muscular pain as a result. Harkness was also taken to the ERI for assessment while the driver of the first car hit was uninjured.

Defence agent Ruairidh Mulheron said his client, Harkness, was a “lucky man” as none of those involved were “severely injured or killed”. Mulheron claimed his client “knows he should’ve taken action or slowed down.” Ultimately, Sheriff Matthew Auchincloss imposed nine penalty points on Harkness’ license and fined him £1875.

When the story was shared to Facebook some commented that hay fever sufferers shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Recent research by Kleenex found that around 49% of people reported suffering with Hay fever symptoms in the UK. Would banning 49% of the population be a plausible option for the DVSA to enforce?

We asked John Dillion, Head of Dispute Resolution at Watermans for his thoughts on the debate

“Driving a vehicle comes with the responsibility of being able to control it and reacting to any hazards or dangers that present themselves. If the driver is being hampered by sneezing, then they must take the appropriate action to manage their vehicle and ensure they do not cause a risk to other road users. The seriousness of the offence and the lack of control shown by the driver has resulted in the hefty penalty imposed upon Mr Harkness. Ultimately it has been a degree of good fortune that has meant no one was seriously or fatally injured. However, the driver and the passengers in the SUV would have preferred for the accident not to have happened at all, leading to no injuries whatsoever being suffered in the collision.”

If you have been involved in an accident and are unsure about the next steps, read our guide on car accidents.

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“I enjoy the challenge of putting my clients back in a position they would have been in, had they not been unfortunate to suffer an accident through no fault of their own.”

John Dillon, Head of Dispute Resolution