Design blind spot cited in driving lapse

A motoring review published on Stuff was cited in court as a 71-year-old man was allowed to avoid a conviction for his first driving lapse.

Christchurch District Court Judge Raoul Neave also cited Anthony Rex Dendy-Steadman’s lifetime of service to the community being “clearly above and beyond the call of duty”.

Defence counsel Josh Lucas said the January 2017 crash near Rangiora had been “almost an accident”, but case law established that failing to check a blind spot was still carelessness.

Dendy-Steadman had pleaded guilty to the charge of careless driving causing injury.

He has worked as a police officer, and a prison officer, and done development work overseas. He has received awards and references. He has never been convicted of anything.

He still had no conviction when he left court yesterday. Judge Neave granted him a discharge without conviction saying that the consequences would have been out of proportion to the offence and there were significant mitigating factors.

Mr Lucas had cited a July 2015 review by Dave McCoid from New Zealand Trucking, published on Stuff, which said the Fiat Ducato van had blind spot issues.

McCoid wrote: “From the driver’s seat, regardless of seat adjustment, you can’t see cars in the blind spot without rocking forward and back to double check. If that’s not enough, the rear pillar on the doors curve forward progressively from top to bottom, worsening the driver’s ability to check left hand clearance at badly angled intersections, to the point where, in some circumstances, it is impossible.”

Dendy-Steadman was driving a camper-van version of the Ducato when he came up to a stop sign on an open-road intersection near Rangiora. He stopped and then drove forward into the path of a car.

In the crash, the woman driver of the car received a broken nose and concussion. “No doubt that was significant in itself,” said Judge Neave, noting that she had long term consequences.

But he also noted: “The complainant holds no ill will towards the driver.”

It seemed that the other car was effectively in Dendy-Steadman’s blind spot and he had not seen it.

Dendy-Steadman’s research confirmed the blind spot issue. It had been referred to in the article published on Stuff. It was a real issue, and not an “unconvincing explanation or excuse cooked up to deal with this case”.

Dendy-Steadman had led an exemplary life. He had contributed to the community “by a considerable margin” in his professional life and his service.

Judge Neave said: “It is also important that we recognise that a conviction at age 71 is a significant factor.” The courts saw people who acquired lists of convictions, and it was easy to forget how a conviction might be viewed by law-abiding members of the community.

He granted the discharge, but made an order that Dendy-Steadman must pay $2000 to the victim as emotional harm reparations within a week.

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