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Dangerous driving case studies

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Contact Armstrong Legal:
Sydney: (02) 9261 4555

John Sutton

Read these four case studies and learn about how our investigation techniques helped drivers charged with dangerous driving offences.

Case study 1: Man fails to stop at a red light after being dazzled by sun

Armstrong Legal acted for a man charged with an offence of dangerous driving causing death. The allegation was that his client failed to stop at a red traffic light at a busy intersection in the Sutherland Shire in the early morning and struck another vehicle that was making a right-hand turn across the path of his vehicle. There were many independent witnesses who were adamant that the accused drove through a red light.

The accused provided Armstrong Legal with a version of events that indicated that approximately 100 metres from the intersection he was dazzled by severe sunlight which entered the top portion of the windscreen which blinded the accused for a short period of time. Unfortunately the accused was unaware that the lights had changed and proceeded through the red traffic light.

We engaged the services of a traffic engineer who was able, with the assistance from the Bureau of Meteorology, to plot where the sun would have been in the horizon at the time of the accident. We learnt from our investigations that the sun is in the exact same position in the horizon every 12 months. Armstrong Legal and the traffic engineer then drove through the intersection with a video-camera fitted to the upper part of the windscreen in a similar vehicle driven by our client at the time of the accident, 12 months after the event. The traffic engineer also took still photographs of the sun entering the top part of the windscreen. These photographs and the videotape made it clear that the accused’s version that sunlight had entered into the top part of the windscreen causing him to be blinded by the sun as being highly probable.

We then discovered that the accused suffered from attention deficient disorder and sought the opinion of a neurologist as to whether such a condition would be likely to affect the accused’s ability to function after being blinded by the sunlight. The neurologist provided a report that indicated that a person suffering from attention deficient disorder once distracted, unlike other people, would be attracted to the distraction rather than refocusing their attention onto the road.

We made written submissions to the Director of Public Prosecutions seeking the withdrawal of the serious charge of dangerous driving causing death. These submissions were successful and the accused plead guilty to an offence of negligent driving causing death. He received a moderate fine and a short period of disqualification.

The accused’s mental wellbeing

At the time that we first met the accused, he was incredibly anxious, reduced to tears and could not prevent his leg from shaking. The accused was so guilt-stricken that he tattooed a skull on each leg, one representing the person that he killed and the other representing his life at that time, as he believed that his life was not worth living. Fortunately, the accused received appropriate counselling, had a strong family support group and a solicitor who supported and believed in him. The accused will always be tormented by the events that caused the death of this young person. However, he has now got on with his life and is doing well.

Case study 2: Young woman makes a u-turn and hits bike

Armstrong Legal appeared for a young woman who was accused of negligent driving causing death. It was alleged that she made a u-turn in a quiet suburban street and in the course of doing so struck a motorcycle. The police alleged that she did not keep a proper look out when pulling out from the curb. The accused was adamant that she did not see the motorcycle rider at any time prior to the collision. There was nothing about the turn itself which was dangerous.

The matter proceeded before the Local Court and evidence was given by a number of witnesses. The cross-examination of Armstrong Legal exposed the fact that the motorcycle rider was travelling in excess of 150kmp/h in a 60km zone. It was also conceded by one eyewitness that the motorcycle rider could have been travelling as fast as 180kmp/h. Based on the estimate of speed it is possible to determine how many metres a vehicle can travel per second. Similarly, you can determine the speed of a vehicle if you are aware of the distance the vehicle travelled and the time it took the vehicle to travel that distance.

We were able to demonstrate to the Court that the motorcycle in all probability was travelling about 50 metres per second, which is the equivalent to the length of an Olympic swimming pool every second. This meant that the motorcycle rider travelled approximately 150 metres in three seconds. The Court found that it was unlikely that our client saw the motorcycle rider prior to commencing her turn and our client was acquitted.

After the court hearing and the wellbeing of the accused

At the conclusion of the hearing the family of the motorcycle rider surrounded our client. The mother of the motorcycle rider said to our client, “I will always hold you responsible for my son’s death.” This was a traumatic period of time for our client. The accused received counselling and assistance from her local church. The accused has supported other clients of Armstrong Legal who have been accused of similar matters.

Case study 3: Driver loses control on slippery wet road

The accused was charged with dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm. The allegation against our client was that she lost control of her motor vehicle going around a corner in the wet and collided with a car on the incorrect side of the roadway causing the death of one child and grievous bodily harm of the mother and another child.

Shortly after the accident, we arranged for a traffic engineer to attend the accident site. We believe that it is extremely important to inspect the scene shortly after the collision to ascertain whether the condition of the roadway or some other substance on the roadway caused the collision. It has been our experience that local councils are keen to re-seal the roadway or remove other hazards once they become aware of the accident.

The traffic engineer took a series of photographs which clearly showed that the roadway at the point of the collision was in a poor condition. He provided a report that included an opinion that the blue metal used on the roadway was so worn that it had become shiny. In his opinion it was likely that after an extended dry period of weather oil would have remained in the roadway, until after rain, where the oil would come to the surface making the roadway extremely slippery.

Evidence was given by the various witnesses at the committal hearing and the weaknesses in the prosecution case were made clear. Although the Magistrate committed the accused to stand trial, the DPP withdrew the matter and the accused never stood trial.

Legal costs partly paid for by the accused’s insurance company

We made an application to the accused’s insurance company (NRMA) for the part-payment of her legal fees. This application was successful and the majority of our legal fees were paid by the NRMA. We suggest that anyone who has been charged with either dangerous driving causing death or grievous bodily harm or negligent driving causing death or grievous bodily harm to apply to their insurance company to ascertain whether they will pay the legal fees for representation by a private firm of solicitors.

Case study 4: Driver falls asleep at wheel and strikes pedestrian

Armstrong Legal acted for a man who was charged with dangerous driving occasioning death. The allegation was that the accused failed to negotiate a left-hand turn and continued straight across the roadway and struck a male person by the side of the road. Upon legal advice the accused provided a prepared statement acknowledging he was the driver of a vehicle and at a short time prior to the accident fell asleep at the wheel and woke up after the collision.

A traffic engineer was retained by Armstorng Legal and attended the scene. He provided a report which contained an opinion that the path taken by the accused was a path that one would expect of a person who fell asleep at the wheel (continued to travel in a straight line). The expert witness also provided an opinion that sunlight passing through the tops of the trees would have caused a hypnotic-type affect upon the driver which may have caused the driver to fall asleep.

We also arranged for the accused to attend a sleep clinic to monitor the accused’s sleeping patterns. During the testing of the accused it was established that he suffered from sleep apnea.

The accused gave evidence at his trial and the jury found the accused not guilty.

Armstrong Legal also assisted two people who have been charged with the offence of dangerous driving causing death and also dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm. These matters are current so we cannot discuss the details of these matters in any detail. However we were successful at a committal hearing to have a charge of aggravated dangerous driving causing death be dismissed.


where to next?

In NSW, traffic offences are treated seriously. Therefore, it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible, whether you have received a penalty notice, had your licence suspended or been charged with a serious offence. Our lawyers are highly experienced and understand the difficulties you face without a licence. We can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

Why Choose Armstrong Legal?

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