Woman who hit Tamaki Drive cyclists sentenced

By Michael Dickison

A 20-year-old university student who failed to stop at a stop sign and drove into a pack of cyclists on the Auckland waterfront, causing brain injury and skull fractures to one rider and injuring three others, has received a sentence at the "lower end" of possible penalties.

Jennifer Speakman was fined $4000 - $1000 per cyclist - and disqualified from driving for six months in the Auckland District Court today.

Speakman was driving to an exam when she approached Auckland's Tamaki Dr last September.

She slowed down and looked both ways - but did not stop completely.

When she turned right on to Tamaki Dr, her Mazda rammed into a group of 20 cyclists.

The injuries to the three cyclists who came away with lesser damage included a broken patella, broken clavicle and cracked vertebrate.

The fourth injured rider, Greg Paterson, had his skull fractured and suffered from bleeding into his brain and spinal fluid.

Brain damage from the collision continues to affect him.

Prosecutor Mark Rodgers said the severe and lasting injuries to cyclists made the case more than a simple matter of paying for damage.

"It's unfair to say this is just a minor [case] ... and brought down to just 'failed to stop at the stop sign'."

The cyclists were wearing high visibility vests and had gone out of their way to make themselves seen, Mr Rodgers said.

Defence lawyer Frank Hogan said Speakman was a promising young woman and should not be crippled by a lapse that anyone could have made.

She had not been speeding, drinking or doing anything else to make her driving exceptionally dangerous, Mr Hogan said.

Mr Hogan handed the judge references saying Speakman was caring and had integrity, and cited her university marks from her first-year Bachelor of Business courses - all As or A minuses - as indication she would be unlikely to make the same mistake again.

Judge Eddie Paul said Speakman's driving put her on the "lower end" of possible penalties, which had a maximum of $4500 or three months imprisonment per charge.

The sentences were based on how reckless her driving had been, rather than the damaged caused to victims and the need for emotional reparation, Judge Paul said.

Speakman's fine of $4000 amounted to half of her savings and should be paid within 28 days, he said.

A spokesman for the cyclists, John Carter, told reporters outside the court that the amount of the reparation was too lenient.

Tamaki Dr, which runs for about 10 kilometres along the Waitemata Harbour waterfront, is the busiest cycle route in Auckland, but its popularity also makes it among the most dangerous.

Speakman had pleaded guilty to the four charges of careless driving causing injury in December.

- NZ Herald

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