A "MANIAC" driver who smashed into a van while dangerously racing another a car has been given a chance to prove he has changed his behaviour.

John Carroll committed the offence in March last year, but Judge Timothy Stead heard that there have been delays in charging him and bringing him to court.

In the meantime, Adam Roxborough, defending, said 31-year-old Carroll has become a dad and is now also caring for his own father, who has cancer. He has not offended since.

"He is genuinely remorseful and trying his level best to put his life straight," said Mr Roxborough.

"These two events have brought home to him that he has responsibilities to people other than himself."

Bolton Crown Court heard how Matthew Barber was driving his Transporter van on Chorley Old Road towards Bolton, at 2.30pm on March 1 last year.

David Bentley, prosecuting, said: "At the same time a red Vauxhall Astra was approaching from a distance towards Mr Barber, racing with a white vehicle.

"Both were performing overtaking manoeuvres of slower moving vehicles.

" Both were doing so as they approached a pelican crossing which only seconds before the collision, turned from a red light to a green light."

The Astra, driven by Carroll, collided with the white vehicle as he tried to overtake it, then rebounded across the carriageway into Mr Barber's van, which had been heading in the opposite direction.

"That was done on the cusp of the pedestrian crossing," said Mr Bentley.

Carroll and his passenger ran off but not before Mr Barber managed to take their photographs of them as they gathered their possessions.

However Carroll, of Leigh Close, Bury, was not arrested until October 31. The court heard that he had also been accused of making off without payment on February 21 and 23, but he was not charged within the time limit.

Judge Stead commented: "Put simply, if the police had got on with it they would have been able to charge him. So the defendant has escaped prosecution for that."

The court heard that Carroll has previous convictions, including for drug driving, and was banned from the roads.

"He accepts he does not have a good record," said Mr Roxborough.

"He readily accepts he was mixing with the wrong sort of people when he was committing his offending and has recognised the need to distance himself from them.

"Having his daughter has assisted in that.

"He recognises his driving was utterly stupid but the consequences, fortunately were not very severe - they could have been far worse."

Carroll pleaded guilty to dangerous driving.

Judge Stead added that, had Carroll been before the court for sentence sooner, he would be facing jail.

He said: "If I was dealing with him promptly, if having caught him and got film footage of him driving like a maniac down the middle of the road, double overtaking and causing innocent motorists to have their vehicles damaged, I don't think I would hesitate to imprison him the day after."

But he decided to give Carroll a chance to prove he can continue to stay out of trouble and deferred sentencing him until February 21 next year.

In the meantime Carroll remains banned from holding a licence.