A DRUNKEN father nearly five times over the drink-drive limit didn’t realise his car was on fire as he drove through Huddersfield with his children.
When Adam Craig Whitehead stopped in a traffic queue, other motorists managed to pull his three young children out of the car to safety, before he drove on.
But yesterday, Huddersfield magistrates spared him jail and sentenced him to 16 weeks in prison, suspended for two years.
Whitehead, 36, of Norcross Avenue in Oakes, was banned from driving for 36 months, handed a bill for £85 costs, and ordered to do 60 hours unpaid work.
He pleaded guilty to drink driving and part of his sentence will be an alcohol treatment requirement.
Tests showed he had 162 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath – the limit is 35.
The court heard how the father-of-three had drunk a bottle of vodka the night before getting behind the wheel on June 19.
One of his children was in the passenger seat and two were in the back as he drove to meet a friend in Milnsbridge.
Carole Lawford, prosecuting, said a woman driving behind Whitehead’s car noticed black smoke billowing from his green Fiat.
The woman sounded her horn to get Whitehead’s attention, but he didn’t stop as he drove along Longwood Road in Paddock.
When he eventually stopped in traffic, she got out of her car and banged on his window to alert him but he didn’t do anything.
She and her mother had to pull the children out of the car and on to the pavement. Whitehead didn’t get out of the car, but drove on, stopping a little further up the road.
When police arrived they breathalysed him and he was nearly five times over the limit.
He told them he had drunk a bottle of vodka the night before.
After examining Whitehead’s car police realised the clutch had burned out and overheated, causing the smoke.
Neil Murphy, defending, said Whitehead had a “chronic” drink problem and was depressed after splitting up with his wife and losing his job.
He said: “He is a man who up until now was a law-abiding citizen and a hard-working family man.
“This isn’t the case of an individual gambling with alcohol who plans to go out and plans to drink and wanted to take the risk.
“He had been drinking the previous evening, and he was driving his vehicle in the morning when his wife was away in France.”
Mr Murphy said Whitehead had recently lost a “high paid” job and had broken up with his wife, but they were still living in the same house together with the children.
Chairman of the magistrates, Mrs Mary Hirst, told Whitehead: “Your driving ability was so impaired that you didn’t even realise the clutch had burnt out and the car was on fire.”
She told the father, who was smartly dressed in a beige suit and red tie, that he had put the lives of his children in danger as well as himself and other road users.