Suspended jail sentence for negligent driving that resulted in Tarago road death

IN COURT

A suspended jail sentence for negligent driving that resulted in a woman’s death at Tarago in April this year has been handed down at the local court.

Damien Ian Collins, 27, of Goulburn, pleaded guilty to negligent driving causing death when he stood in Goulburn Local Court on September 13.

Police facts tendered in court said on April 8, Collins was driving a Toyota Hilux utility from Batemans Bay to Goulburn.

Turning from the Kings Highway onto Braidwood Road, Collins took up a position behind two motorcyclists: Melissa Tickner, 42, and a man. 

Ms Tickner was riding a 250cc motorcycle and her provisional (P1) licence limited her to travelling at 90km/h.

The police facts said at 3.45pm, Collins was still travelling behind the two motorcycle riders as they approached Tarago.

About 500 metres south of Tarago the motorists passed a sign advising a 60km/h zone ahead. The motorcyclists started to slow down, but moments later Collins’ utility touched the rear wheel of Ms Tickner’s motorcycle.

The impact ejected her off her motorcycle and onto the roadway, which caused injuries that led to her death about 40 minutes after the accident.

Police said Collins told them he was unable to overtake the riders without exceeding his own speed limit of 90km/h as a provisional (P1) licence holder, nor did he attempt to. 

Collins also told police after the accident that he had looked at his speedometer for about 1.5 seconds as he approached the 60km/h zone.

When he looked up, he saw Ms Tickner’s brake lights, but “by the time I looked up ... there was nothing, absolutely nothing, I could do,” he told police. Collins’ vehicle did not leave any markings on the roadway to indicate he had braked heavily prior to the impact. He told police he was travelling at 70km/h at the time of the collision.

He stopped immediately and attempted to give assistance. He remained at the scene.

He was arrested and taken to Goulburn Base Hospital for a blood and urine sample, then to Goulburn Police Station and interviewed. 

In sentencing, Magistrate Geraldine Beattie spoke to the open court: “In the police facts you comment to police about being too close to stop.

“It is a tragic circumstance and, as a result, a person died.

“He (Collins) told police he had a 2-3 second gap, but he recognised he was too close to stop safely.

“He looked at his speedometer for 1.5 seconds and when he looked up again he saw the brake light, but could not stop in time. 

“He took his eyes off the road and momentary inattention led to the collision.” 

In sentencing Collins, she said the maximum penalty for the offence was 18 months’ jail.

“Parliament views this as a very serious offence,” she said. 

“I balance that against your strong remorse that is clear in your letter to the court. 

“You also display empathy about the effects on the deceased woman’s family.

“I note a charge of negligent driving, not dangerous driving, is before me.

“It was a horrific incident and a tragic one. 

“In sentencing, I need to denounce this conduct and deter this behaviour in the community. I also need to make Mr Collins accountable.

“This is a serious offence. It has crossed the threshold for imprisonment.” 

She sentenced Collins to a seven-month suspended sentence and disqualified him from driving for 30 months.

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