The family of a Waihi cyclist killed after being struck by a man who momentarily fell asleep at the wheel believe the sentence imposed on the driver was “far too lenient”.
Arthur Ross, 77, died from injuries he sustained in a crash at the intersection of State Highway 2 and Johnson Road just before 12pm on September 6, 2014.
Police cordoned off the street as they dealt with the accident on September 6 last year. Photo: File.
The driver of the Mazda vehicle, Ross Johnson, later pleaded guilty to one charge of careless driving.
In March this year he was disqualified from driving for nine monthsand ordered to pay an emotional harm reparation payment of $3000 within 28 days.
But it was a sentence that doesn’t sit well with one of Arthur’s siblings, Geraldine Morgan.
“Driving whilst tired is akin to either drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs,” says Arthur’s younger sister, who made contact with SunLive independently to express her disappointment.
“Either of these offences would incur a custodial sentence, so just receiving a nine month loss of licence is ludicrous and a disgrace.”
During sentencing his lawyer, Tony Balme, told Judge David Ruth that Ross was driving with his 12-year-old son towards Auckland to see a soccer game.
Tony said Ross’ son is autistic and deaf and both he and his wife are up at all hours of the night dealing with their son.
“Mr Johnson deals on a daily basis with lack of sleep and thought that day was like any other,” Tony told the court.
Tony said Ross fell asleep for a brief moment, causing him to veer left and strike the cyclist.
At the time of the accident police said Arthur was cycling along the roadside when he was struck by the Mazda, with the force of the impact flinging him in the air before he hit the pavement.
He was airlifted to Waikato Hospital but his condition continued to deteriorate and he passed away two weeks later.
But Geraldine feels the sentence handed down is totally inadequate.
“I think it was very lenient - too lenient - because he had no right to be on the road,” she says.
“If he was tired he had no right to get in the car and in my mind if it wasn’t my brother he killed it would have been someone else.”
“The driver is the one responsible for the safety of his child and being tired, he should not have even considered a three-hour drive to Auckland and then the same coming home.”
Speaking from her Gold Coast home, she says the family first heard of the sentence handed down to Ross through SunLive’s article.
She can appreciate Judge Ruth considering the plight of the autistic son but believes it shows a diminished sense of responsibility on the driver’s part by “endangering the safety of his child and other road users”.
“If he had received a lifetime driving ban which would seem more appropriate, it would ensure the same thing would not occur again,” she adds.
“It seems more and more these days that the punishments the courts hand down are too lenient.”
She plans on contacting the rest of the family, Arthur’s two other brothers, to see how they feel about the sentence imposed.
“I did send a letter to one of my brothers who said it was ridiculous and far too lenient,” she says.