By Rob Banks, Crime Editor
A woman crashed her new luxury motorhome at 40mph after putting on the cruise control and getting up to make a cup of tea, a court heard today.
Dawn Spencer-Smith had dreamed of living in a motorhome and spent £45,000 on the second-hand van. She was driving it for the first time when the accident happened.
Ipswich magistrates heard how Spencer-Smith, 62, of Cretingham, near Ipswich had spent her life savings on the four-year-old, four-berth vehicle.
But two days later it was written off when it veered out of control and hit a tree on the B1084 road to Orford.
Pleading guilty to careless and reckless driving, Spencer Smith, a retired librarian, stunned magistrates by saying she had been confused by what cruise control actually meant.
“I thought it was like an autopilot that you get on airplanes,” she said.
“I turned it on at what I thought was a sensible 40mph, then stepped away from the driver seat into the back of the motorhome to make a cup of tea.
“I presumed that cruise control worked with the sat nav to negotiate the roads safely. Imagine my surprise when no sooner had I flicked the switch on the kettle that we hit a tree at 40mph. Luckily I was unhurt because I was thrown on to the sofa.
“Police came and were shocked when I said my cruise control must have gone wrong. I now realise I made a terrible mistake, and am just grateful I or anybody else was not killed.”
Living in a motorhome
Magistrates told Spencer-Smith she was lucky to be alive, banned her from driving for 12 months and fined her £1,200 plus prosecution costs.
She refused to comment to the Suffolk Gazette outside the court.
But a neighbour said: “I remember the day she brought the motorhome back from the showroom – she was very proud of it in her driveway, and told me it had a kitchen, shower room, a fully-fitted bedroom – and all mod cons.
“Next day she drove off in it saying she was going to Orford on her first day trip.
“We never saw the motorhome again.”
A Suffolk Police spokesman said they advised drivers of all new vehicles check over the driving manuals carefully before taking to the road.