Judge calls for cameras to cover truck blind spots

BicycleA judge has called for more camera technology to be used to improve the safety of big trucks and their massive blind spots, at a sentencing for a Christchurch cycle death.

Christchurch District Court Judge Gary MacAskill said he hoped the issue would be considered at the inquest that would be held into the death of Taiwanese cycle tourist Ming-Chih Hsieh who was crushed by a truck.

The cyclist had been in the blind spot to the immediate left of the articulated truck driven by  David Peter Connell, 51, who was convicted in June at a judge-alone trial on a charge of careless driving causing death.

The judge who found him guilty after hearing the evidence said he recommended that the coroner investigate whether camera technology now available should be installed in trucks to eliminate dangerous blindspots.

“If something good can come out of this, it might be that cameras be made available on vehicles on this kind,” said the judge.

He said his own car, did have a camera installed.

Connell was given community detention and ordered to do 200 of community work for his second fatal cycle crash.

Through defence counsel Kerry Cook, Connell apologised to the victim’s family for the loss of their son. He said Connell would have liked to speak to them directly over Skype, to express that apology, but they had understandably declined – as was their right.

Connell had not been aware of the particular cultural factors involved until he was given the family’s victim impact statement to read on the day of the sentencing.

Mr Cook said Connell offered the family $7000 for losses and emotional harm reparations, which he had raised through a loan and some savings. It was a significant sum for a man with no great means, who was not working at present.

The judge found him guilty at a judge-alone trial in June, which heard how Connell’s large articulated truck had crushed the cyclist as it made a left turn at the Carmen Road-Waterloo Road intersection in Hornby, on September 29, 2014.

Mr Hsieh, 33, had been riding in a cycle lane on the left side of the vehicle. A vehicle inspector told the trial that poor visibility through the left hand side window because of the dirt and grime, and the fact that the indicator lights on both the trailer units were not working may have been contributing factors to the crash.

The cyclist had remained in the “blind zone” around the tractor unit.

Judge MacAskill found that Connell had failed to recognise that he had to check, wait, and give way to cyclists in a cycle lane going straight ahead on his left. He found that the cyclist was not “contributorily negligent” in failing to take reasonable care to protect himself when there was a risk that the truck driver might not give way to him.

Connell was responsible for an earlier cycle death after he crashed a truck into Stephen Craig Avery on State Highway 1 on the Kapiti Coast in 2005. Connell admitted a charge of careless driving causing Mr Avery’s death. He was ordered to pay $2000 to the victim’s widow and disqualified from driving for nine months. 

At today’s sentencing, Judge MacAskill said the accident had been a disaster for Mr Hsieh’s parents. He would not be able to support them in their old age, as would have been expected.

He acknowedged that the tragedy had also had an effect on Connell from the outset. Connell had told the probation officer at his pre-sentence interview that his remorse “eats away at me every day”.

He sentenced Connell to community detention for four months at an address in Darfield, 200 hours of community work, disqualification from driving for a year, and payment of the $7000 of reparations.


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