This article was in this morning’s Geelong Advertiser.
It raises more questions than it solves. However, we don’t have the full story – as we were not at the court.
Was the cyclist at court to give evidence about his/her injuries? It is reported that the cyclist was not seen by the driver because the cyclist had landed under a tree. It would seem that the cyclist was not able to get up straight away. We do not know whether the cyclist was unconscious – even for a short period. We do not know whether the cyclist had indeed broken a finger (or any other bones) as there appear to have been no follow-up of the cyclist’s well being by the police. We do not know what medical treatment the cyclist was given and whether an ambulance was needed. We also do not have the cyclist’s version of the events or any information about how his/her damaged bicycle was paid for.
What obscured the driver’s vision of the intersection? Why did he not wait until he had a full view? We do not know what obscured the driver’s vision. However, it is of concern that the driver twice was not able to assess the situation because of obscured vision. (The second time was after the collision, when the driver apparently stopped after hitting the cyclist, then drove off ‘because he could not see where the cyclist was’.) Surely, this should have given the magistrate enough evidence of the motorist’s sight issues to suggest that a vision test might have been appropriate.
Was the driver’s cognition impaired? The driver made at least two poor decisions on the day of the collision. He failed to check that the intersection was clear before pulling out, and, despite many years of driving, he drove off after an accident. He must have known he had hit something. The report states that “The victim flew on to the bonnet of Chastiak’s car and into the windscreen before falling off onto the ground”. With many years experience, the driver must have known the law about stopping after any collision where damage has been done. The driver’s vehicle must have been damaged, even if his sight was so poor he did not know just what he had hit! The driver was stressed after visiting his sick wife – which would further have added to the pressure he was under on the day of the collision. Surely, this was enough evidence for the magistrate to ask for a medical assessment of the driver’s cognitive ability to continue driving.
Do magistrates have the power to ask for medical reviews of drivers when there are health issues which may impair driving? If they do have such a power, it is worrying that Magistrate John Lesser chose not to do so. He passed the issue of the driver’s ability to continue driving to the driver’s family, and, despite a fine, did not record a conviction. He is reported as saying, ‘Drive carefully and live long, okay?’ This is a clear green light for the motorist to continue driving.
It is acknowledged that being able to drive is part of our independence. However, there is a clear evidence from this report that, despite a good record, this driver can no longer drive safely. It is incredibly worrying that the driver still has no conviction from this incident and, should another collision occur would again get leniency because of his ‘good driving record’.
As an aside – what if the cyclist had been killed? What if, instead of a cyclist the victim had been a pedestrian, another motorist, a child on a scooter or a mother pushing a pram? Would this have changed the outcome of the court case?