Education needed on dangers of driving with dipped headlights on rural roads

By Lydia Anderson

Roadside memorial for William Hoskins. Photo / Michael Craig
Roadside memorial for William Hoskins. Photo / Michael Craig

A coroner is recommending public education on the dangers of driving with dipped headlights on rural roads, after a wedding guest was killed by a vehicle at night in rural Waikato.

Hastings man William Hoskins, 26, was killed on January 15, 2012 about 4.40am, while walking back to a Cambridge motel after his cousin's wedding at Matangi.

Mr Hoskins was hit by a vehicle driven by David Mascelle, who was travelling to Hamilton with his wife.

Mr Mascelle was towing an 800kg loaded trailer when he hit Mr Hoskins, and was driving with dipped headlights.

He did not stop to check what he had hit, but pulled over 88 metres away to check what damage had been caused to his vehicle and pulled off a broken plastic stone guard and fog light.

In his finding, released today, Coroner Garry Evans recommended greater emphasis be placed on the dangers of driving with dipped headlights on rural roads during the hours of darkness.

"The public should be made aware that visibility of the length of road ahead of them whilst driving is greatly reduced, in contrast to travelling with headlights on full beam, which provides a fivefold increase in forward visibility," he said.

Coroner Evans also recommended a review of road rules as to when drivers should drive with headlights on full beam, and the inclusion of a headlights distance test in vehicle warrant of fitness checks.

Mr Mascelle took issue with the coroner's finding that driving with dipped headlights at the time of the accident was not an action consistent with "a reasonable and prudent driver".

He did not accept his "accidental striking of Mr Hoskins was the only cause of Mr Hoskins' injuries" and said that contrary to the court's finding, it was possible more than one vehicle was involved.

Meanwhile, a coroner has ruled that a 76-year-old farmer, who died from injuries after he crashed his tractor, was "the author, to some extent, of his own misfortune and tragically has died from the injuries sustained".

Dargaville man Graham Willis Foster was using his tractor to slash gorse on February 7, 2011 and had either fallen out or been run over, sustaining serious injuries.

He managed to drive his Land Rover after the accident, but drove it into a ditch and "succumbed to his injuries".

Coroner Ian Smith found Mr Foster's tractor was not in "sound operating condition, particularly with reference to its brakes".

- APNZ

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