Christopher Hall, of Hurstleigh Terrace in Harrogate, was sentenced to two years and four months imprisonment for causing death by careless driving when over the prescribed limit, at York Crown Court.
It came after the 24-year-old admitted his “stupid decision” to drive after he had been out drinking killed Christine Mackay, 71, on the A1(M).
The court heard that he crashed into the back of another car near Bedale in the early hours of October 18 in 2021, after he decided to drive to Newcastle because he was concerned about a friend.
No one was seriously injured in that collision but half of his crumpled Ford Fiesta was left in the inside lane of the unlit carriageway and the only light visible to oncoming motorists was the flashing indicator on his wing mirror.
Hall phoned police at 2.22am to report the crash from the side of the road and told the operator: “I think I just sort of either dozed off or stopped paying attention for a moment.”
Around 8 minutes and 45 seconds after the first collision, Andrew Mackay, 76, who was driving back from Dornoch in Scotland with his wife Christine in a Land Rover Defender, hit Hall’s car while they were travelling at 70mph.
Their vehicle spun out of control and then flipped onto its roof on the grass embankment next to the road. Ms Mackay was pronounced dead at the scene after suffering severe head injuries, but her husband survived.
Mr Mackay told the court the crash has “changed my life forever”, as he is grieving the loss of the woman he was married to for 47 years and living in “constant pain” due to a neck injury he suffered.
“I have lost my friend and my life partner. I find it difficult to put into words what Christine meant to me,” he said.
“I feel lonely and know that nothing will get better. I can’t sort through Christine's clothes as I can't bear to get rid of any of them. I know I must but it just feels too difficult.”
Hall was breathalysed and officers found he had 45 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath – putting him over the legal limit of 35.
He later told police he “lost focus for a second” before the crash and may have “momentarily drifted off”.
Phone records revealed that a friend had asked him if he was in Newcastle and could “get away” at around 11.30pm on October 17, when he was out drinking with friends in Harrogate.
He told her “I'm going to try not to drive because I've had a fair amount to drink” but then decided to get into his car and make the journey.
Hall said he was concerned about his friend because she was having “domestic issues” and phone records show he attempted to phone her 60 times during the journey.
He decided to turn around when she told him she was safe at a hotel and going to sleep at around 1.13am. He caused the fatal crash when he was driving home.
In a letter read to the court, Hall said “there isn’t a day when I don’t think about what happened” and how the crash has affected Ms Mackay’s husband and son.
He added: “I cannot put into words just how sorry I am. As the result of one, inexplicable, stupid decision, I have deprived them of time they could have spent with their beloved wife and mother.”
Hall, who pleaded guilty at a hearing in July and has no previous convictions, was jailed for two years and four months. He was also disqualified from driving for five years and two months.
Judge Simon Hickey said: “I would be failing in my public duty if I did not pass an immediate custodial sentence.
“For those that drink and drive, and are too tired to drive – that combination must always, except in exceptional circumstances and this is not one, lead to an immediate custodial sentence.”
He added: “No sentence that I can pass on you Mr Hall will ever bring Christine Mackay back and no sentence will ever be, in their (the family’s) eyes, anywhere near what should be imposed.
“But equally I know the effect it will have on you and your family and so this case is a tragedy to all.”