Leeds model 'asleep at wheel' inquest

A part-time Leeds model fell asleep at the wheel of her car after a long night shift, an inquest heard.

Lizzie Pickavance, of Stanningley Road, Leeds, died after her Saxo car left the M62 at Gildersome on August 10 and hit a tree Leeds Coroner's Court was told.

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The 20-year-old was returning home from the Manchester night club where she was assistant manager after working from 8pm to 4am.

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West Yorkshire Coroner David Hinchliff said she had not been drinking and seemed wide awake and bubbly when she left.

But a witness saw her car veering from left to right over a period of seven minutes shortly before the crash.

"This suggests she might have been drifting in and out of sleep," said the coroner.

"The vehicle left the road and went in a straight line across a grass verge, making contact with a piece of abandoned concrete which then projected it into a mature tree that was the real villain of the piece."

Mr Hinchliff suggested that Lizzie might still be alive if her car had not hit the tree.

"I do have sympathy for night shift workers who have to drive when their body clocks are out of kilter.

"People like Lizzie and police officers and nurses are all at risk.

"Fatigue can overcome them very quickly."

Police Sgt Garry Alderson, who investigated the crash, said: "It would be more sensible to pull off the motorway and have a short rest."

The sergeant said the straight path taken by the Saxo suggested its driver had fallen asleep at the wheel.

Mr Hinchliff: "There can be no other explanation, can there?"

Sgt Alderson: "No, sir."

Mr Hinchliff: "I suspect that had the tree not been there, although Lizzie might have been slightly injured, that amount of damage would not have happened."

Sgt Alderson: "It wouldn't, sir."

Lizzie was the youngest of four children of Mr and Mrs Robert Pickavance, who said she was considering a career in special needs care or midwifery but "wanted to enjoy life first."

Mr Hinchliff recorded a verdict of accidental death.