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Swiss court convicts driver for killing suicidal woman who lay on motorway

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Swiss court convicts driver for killing suicidal woman who lay on motorway
File photo: Chalabala/Depositphotos
09:15 CEST+02:00
A driver who fatally ran over a woman who had lain down on a motorway with the intention of committing suicide has been convicted of negligent homicide.
The man was convicted on Tuesday by a court in Biel-Seeland which said he was driving too fast to be able to see an obstacle in the road in time to brake, reported the Berner Zeitung.
 
The case dates back to May 8th 2016 when a woman who had fought with her partner lay down on the A6 motorway just before the Lyss-Nord exit near Biel/Bienne at around 5am. 
 
During phone calls exchanged with her partner she said she intended to commit suicide, the court heard.
 
The driver was travelling at about 100km/hr – within the Swiss motorway speed limit of 120km/hr – with his lights on low beam, said the paper. He had not been drinking and was not distracted by a mobile phone. 
 
Yet he did not see the woman in the road until it was too late. When he did, he braked and tried to swerve but was unable to avoid impact, he told the court. Just before impact he saw a flash of light, thought to be the reflectors on the woman's shoes.
 
Still he didn't know if he had hit a person, and thought it might be an animal, he said.
 
The court heard that the events of that night had badly affected the driver, who has suffered from depression since the incident. 
 
In court he repeatedly apologized for what happened and said, “I am not the guilty party, I am a victim,” reported the paper. 
 
But the judge disagreed, saying he should have adapted his speed to the light conditions to ensure he could see an obstacle in the road in time to stop.
 
He had told the court his visibility at the time was 60 metres, whilst evidence showed that his braking distance at 100km/hr was 65 metres.
 
Drivers should always be prepared for a person in the road; why they are there does not matter, said the judge.
 
In sentencing, the court recognized the circumstances of the case and issued a suspended 15-day fine and an additional fine of 210 francs, while the convicted man will also have to pay court costs of around 8,700 francs.
 
The case is not the only one of this nature in Switzerland. 
 
In August last year another suicidal woman was run over by several cars on the motorway near Morges in the canton of Vaud.
 
And in another case, a police officer was acquitted of wrongdoing after hitting and killing a man who was lying on the motorway in August 2015.
 
The 22-year-old had been drinking and had passed out on the road when the policewoman, responding to an emergency, ran him over. 
 
A criminal court judged that the officer had been driving in a manner that was justified and that the presence of a man on the road was a "completely exceptional and unpredictable situation", according to the judge.
 
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