LONDON: A tired and sleep-deprived Indian-origin woman who fell asleep at the wheel while driving with her baby in the car has been jailed for killing another driver in a crash in Oxfordshire, south-east England.
Anusha Ranganathan was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison at Oxford Crown Court on Friday after pleading guilty to causing the death of 70-year-old Patricia Robinson by dangerous driving in July last year.
The 41-year-old IT expert was tired after multiple sleepless night with her baby who had recently undergone heart surgery, the court was told.
"When someone is driving a car and they fall asleep, it turns into a lethal weapon. This was a poor piece of driving to put it mildly,” said Judge Ian Pringle.
"We will never know why you drove in the way that you did, but it seems that you fell asleep behind the wheel. Ms Robinson suffered injuries described by doctors as the most extensive in a road traffic accident who had not died, and this was caused by you," he said.
The court heard that the fatal crash occurred in East Hanney, Oxfordshire, with both cars ending up in a water-filled ditch. Ranganathan's car caught fire with her baby, who was a passenger, trapped in the footwell after falling out of his baby seat. All those involved were rushed to hospital, where Robinson died almost five weeks after the crash from her injuries.
“The Toyota, carrying Ms Ranganathan's young son in the rear of the car, veered onto the opposite carriageway and hit the Nissan head-on, causing both vehicles to come off the road and into a muddy ditch," Prosecutor Jonathon Stone told the court.
A police investigation concluded that it was not any weather conditions, inappropriate speed, drugs or alcohol that caused the crash but either that Ranganathan was distracted or fell asleep at the wheel.
Her lawyer, Matthew Kerruish-Jones, told the court that Ranganathan had, prior to the collision, a clean driving licence and had never been in trouble with the police and that she did not set out to cause an accident.
He also read out her letter of remorse in court, which read: "When I set out to drive with my husband and son that day, I never imagined being the reason to cause so much hurt and pain to so many people. I shall feel remorse for as long as I live."
Judge Pringle admitted that Ranganathan's character references submitted to the court were an “impressive set of testimonies" but concluded that a custodial sentence was necessary given the impact on the victim's family.
He also disqualified Ranganathan from driving for three-and-a-half years and said that she will have to undergo an extended test before driving again. She was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge.