A TEENAGER whose lapse of concentration at the wheel led to a head-on collision which left a family with life-changing injuries had just passed her driving test the day before, a court heard.

Grace Isabelle Grainger, now 18, was just 17-years-old when she failed to spot a hazard and swerved into oncoming traffic on the afternoon of December 20 last year.

Her Renault Clio crashed into a Vauxhall Mokka on the A689, near Crook, causing significant injuries to a five-week old baby and a 66-year-old grandmother, who were both passengers.

Grainger was due at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court yesterday but did not attend as advised by her legal representative.

Magistrates accepted a guilty plea for one charge of driving without due care and attention on the defendant’s behalf and proceeded with the case in her absence.

Jonathan Hanratty, prosecuting, said: “This case is a reminder of how one slip of the pedal can change many people’s lives forever.

“On December 20 at around 1.40pm the defendant was travelling in her black Renault Clio towards Howden-Le-Wear carrying three passengers.

“Members of the public stated that there was a vehicle on the road waiting for a break in traffic to turn right into a farm.

“The defendant failed to recognise the hazard and swerved into the opposite lane, colliding head on with an oncoming Mokka.

“The vehicle had three passengers, a 34-year-old woman, her five-week old baby and her 66-year-old mother.

“Serious injuries were caused to the passengers, and life-changing injuries to the baby and to the driver’s mother.”

An off-duty police officer who was at the scene said in a statement: “As I drove along I became aware of an RTC that looked like it had just happened. I illuminated my hazard lights and got out of the car and saw a woman cradling a baby in her arms.

“The baby was unresponsive and very limp, he had no pulse and I had to perform CPR. He did eventually come round and he began screaming and crying.”

The driver of the Vauxhall Mokka said in a statement: “My life as a new mother will never be the same ever again after this incident.

“[Her son] has life-long health needs, he has had to have a shunt fitted into his brain which he will have to live with for the rest of his life, this causes us massive concern and anxiety for the future.

“I have had to seek help for PTSD, I struggle to sleep and process what has happened. I can’t even take a car journey because it is too hard.

“My son has had several surgeries on his brain and I have spent the last month sleeping in a chair by his bedside in hospital.

“My mother is my best friend, she she is now out of a coma but is still struggling with brain damage and she is wheelchair bound.

“This whole saga has taken over my life, I can’t remember who I was before it and I don’t know who I will be after it.

“I suffer endless anxiety and stress and this is almost unmanageable. I relied on my parents for child care which has now had to stop, I can’t express how far and how wide the ripples of this incident have gone.”

Two passengers in the defendant’s car also suffered serious injuries, including spinal fractures, a deep laceration to the face, a shattered elbow and a snapped wrist.

Mr Hanratty said a police investigation was carried out after the incident which confirmed that the defendant was not on her phone whilst driving.

Rebecca Stanton, mitigating, said her client was “devastated” by the consequences of the incident.

She added: “The family [in the Mokka] and her friends have been in the forefront of her mind since December.

“She passed her test on December 19. One day before this incident takes place. We all remember those first few tentative drives without the instructor there to intervene.

“She fully accepts the accounts of all witnesses. It was inevitable there was going to be a collision. She swerved right into oncoming traffic, could she have swerved left, perhaps, she briefly remembers seeing an oncoming car before she was herself knocked unconscious.”

The then 17-year-old also suffered serious injuries during the crash, including two broken wrists, bruising to her lungs, a fractured pelvis and a fractured spine.

In a statement read out during the hearing, Grainger said she never imagined that a day that started off with so much excitement having just passed her test could have ended with such tragedy for everyone involved.

The statement read: “I would like to apologise to everybody involved. I am still incredibly anxious about passing cars and have nightmares about the accident. I wish every day that it never happened."

David Shallows, chair of the bench, said: “This is one of those cases where a momentary lapse in judgement has devastating consequences. Our sympathy is with those involved.”

Grainger, of Coppice Wood, Hunwick, Crook, was given six penalty points and fined £120. She was also ordered to pay £85 costs and £32 victim surcharge.