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Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Ruling on Sydney Car Tragedy

The ruling by magistrate Elaine Truscott in the Sydney driving tragedy warrants comment. Accepting it was likely the car hit a wet patch on the road, she said "I cannot think of anything, in the way she drove, that [she] could have done or should have done anything to avoid the accident". The VW Golf had eight people in it, instead of five, and two young men in the boot died in the crash.

That vehicle was operated at the edge of, or in excess of, its design and test parameters (depending on the model and passengers). That extra two hundred and fifty kilograms of passengers in a one tonne car could be significant. Surely a case could be made to a jury that the vehicle was so obviously compromised that no amount of concentration could have ensured safety. But now we'll never know.

If I strapped a baby-grand piano onto the roof of a VW Golf and rolled it and people died, well, wouldn't I have to face a jury, regardless of my on-road skills? The decision to accept those circumstances and drive anyway should not be divorced from the assessment of driver performance and culpability - which must include judgement.

I hope this isn't a case of "she's already learnt her lesson", as in last year's case of the SMS-driver who killed a cyclist. Such a view undermines community confidence in the law.


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