A Penzance pensioner caught driving erratically with full beam headlights and forcing other motorists to swerve told magistrates his dog ate his glasses and he had a bad cough.


Ian John Maclaren, 74, of Penmere Road, pleaded guilty at Truro Magistrates' Court to dangerous driving, having been reported to the police by a concerned member of the public who followed him.


Magistrates heard that although he should have been wearing his distance glasses to drive, he was not doing so as his dog had eaten them. His car’s steering could also have been affected because the vehicle was overloaded with hundreds of telephone books in the boot.


McLaren, who had no previous convictions, was given an eight week prison sentence suspended for a year and banned from driving for two years and until he passes an extended driving test. He had to pay £200 in costs and charges.


Crown Prosecution Service prosecutor Jill Wilson said McLaren had been seen by another motorist at 7.45pm in Hayle. This person had noticed that the rear of his Vauxhall Vectra was very low and appeared to be overloaded.


He followed it on to the A30 where it was weaving about, crossing white lines and causing other vehicles to avoid colliding with him, braking heavily for no reason, going fast, then slow, and using full beam lights in the face of oncoming traffic.


After the police were alerted, an officer caught up with McLaren at Chiverton Cross where the Vectra turned towards Truro, swerving and drifting about the road, almost going over a grass verge, travelling at 50mph in a 30mph limit, and coming to a sudden stop in the middle of a roundabout before driving on again, at which stage the officer signalled the driver to stop.


McLaren told him: “I was driving normally. It might have been my cough.”


The next day he failed a police eyesight test, confessed he should have been wearing glasses, and then was only able to read a number plate at 10 metres instead of the required 20 metres.


His solicitor Paul Gallagher said McLaren was a part-time delivery driver of phone books and had collected some the day before. He had not realised their weight could affect his car’s steering. The day of the offence he was unwell and had a cough, and had a number of coughing fits while driving.


Mr Gallagher said McLaren accepted his driving had been dangerous. “But it was not an intentional act by him or complete disregard for other people’s safety. He thought he was driving normally.


“He said had he realised how bad it was he would have stopped earlier.”