Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New Zealand: Foreign Driver, 25, Imprisoned, Fined for Fatal Collision

As a follow-up to my posting of November 27, entitled "New Zealand: Human Carnage Continues on Kiwi Roadways, a Dangerous Place to drive," Singaporean tourist Kok Wei Ko, 25, has been sentenced to imprisonment of 21 months and fined US$18,000 for passing on double-yellow lines, resulting in death and serious injuries.

Ko was convicted after being responsible for a two-vehicle collision that occurred on State Highway 1 between Balclutha and Clinton  last month.
Ko, an inexperienced driver and three life-long friends were vacationing in New Zealand and were traveling north in a rental Rav 4 on November 12 when Ko decided to pass a truck on a double-yellow lines.
However, he did not give himself enough time to pass and collided with a southbound Mercedes driven by Michelle Squires.

Ms. Squires' father, Neville, 82, was sitting in the front passenger seat at the time and was killed on impact. Ko's three friends were also injured. 
Ko subsequently pleaded guilty to careless driving causing death, careless driving causing injury and three charges of dangerous driving causing injury.

COMMENT: As I have noted far too many times in the past, I strongly discourage inexperienced and youthful foreign drivers in driving on New Zealand roadways, largely because it is dominated by two-way roads, domestic stock, wildlife and winding topography.

In the past, New Zealand courts have generally been compassionate in cases where foreigners have been responsible for fatal accidents, yet this trend is quickly changing, particularly after a series of fatal accidents for which foreign drivers were deemed responsible.

Unfortunately, driving in New Zealand for the first time, particularly if drivers come from right-hand drive nations--Kiwi driving in on the LEFT--can be perilous and lethal.

As I have said in the past, and particularly because of the influence that jet-lag has on driving skills (a normalization process that can easily take two weeks), I discourage all foreign drivers from renting a car upon arrival until such time as they have recovered from jet-lag and become familiar with a totally different driving system.

Yet, in Mr. Ko's case, he is from a LEFT-HAND drive country. Thus, the transition should have been seamless for him, other than making a bad choice to pass on a double-yellow line which is prohibited at ALL times. 

Being responsible for the loss of life to others often has life-altering and irreversible consequences. Although Mr. Ko was very remorseful in court for his actions, the fact is that Ms. Squires' father, Neville, is no longer with us.

We extend our prayers, thoughts and condolences to the Squires Family.