On the 3rd November 1997, Mr Irwin was riding his Honda 850 cc motorcycle on the B3135, a country road in Somerset. This is a straight single carriageway road about 16 feet wide and subject to a 60mph speed limit. Ahead of him were two vehicles, a tractor followed by a van, travelling in the same direction.

Mr Irwin reduced his speed to 30 mph and followed the two vehicles for approximately one mile until he decided it was safe to overtake. As he began his overtake manoeuvre, he pulled out into the opposing lane and increased his speed to 45 mph when suddenly, the tractor began turning right into a junction. Mr Irwin was unable to avoid colliding with the tractor and sustained significant injuries.


Proceedings were raised on behalf of Mr Irwin against the driver of the tractor.

At first instance, it was held that both parties were equally to blame for the collision. The Judge found that the tractor driver should have seen Mr Irwin if he had checked his mirrors adequately and Mr Irwin should have taken into account the slowing tractor and the right indicator.

Interestingly, the Appeal court disagreed with this conclusion and instead held that Mr Irwin was 100% at fault. For the Appeal Court to reach this conclusion, the Judge looked more closely at the circumstances of the incident.

On closer look, it was established that the tractor had its right-hand indicator on well in advance and had slowed down to 10mph on approach to the junction.

Mr Irwin’s representatives argued that the tractor driver should have observed Mr Irwin and his failure to do so is what caused the incident. This argument was unsuccessful. Instead, it was accepted that the tractor driver had checked his mirrors prior to turning right but had not seen Mr Irwin, most likely because he was following closely behind the van. In addition, Mr Irwin would have only become visible to the tractor driver after he had begun turning right and at that point it was deemed unreasonable for him to keep looking behind as opposed to concentrating on the road ahead and his turn across it.


In short, it was held that the tractor driver did not fail in any of his duties. There was no reason for him to believe that a motorcycle, or any other vehicle, would pull out to overtake at that time or, if any vehicle did so, its driver would fail to see the tractor’s indicator lights illuminating on the top of the tractor’s cab.

Motorcyclist 100% at fault

Link to case:

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