Driver and blind victim embrace outside Dunedin court

The bus driver appear at the Dunedin District Court, having pleaded guilty to careless driving causing injury. Photo / File
The bus driver appear at the Dunedin District Court, having pleaded guilty to careless driving causing injury. Photo / File

A bus driver and the blind woman he knocked over have shared an unlikely embrace outside court.

Despite the fact 71-year-old Peter Hinds left the victim needing nine stitches in the back of her head and glass chips to be removed from a calf, she had forgiven him.

The woman, whose name was suppressed, told the Otago Daily Times she felt the driver had taken the ordeal worse than she had.

The pair knew each other through a family connection and Hinds said he immediately knew whom he had hit.

The victim said she felt like he had "done his sentence'' but it did not stop him appearing in the dock at the Dunedin District Court yesterday, having pleaded guilty to a charge of careless driving causing injury.

There was no avoiding a conviction against his name but his lawyer, Sarah Saunderson-Warner, argued a period of driving disqualification should not be imposed.

Under the Land Transport Act, a ban can only be avoided if special circumstances exist.

Early on May 24, Hinds was driving his usual Go Bus route down Balmacewen Rd and was making a right turn down Grater St while the woman and her two friends were crossing.

Despite only travelling about 20kmh, the bus ploughed into the pedestrian.

The woman told the ODT her blindness might have actually helped her in the situation.

"I think that saved me in a way - I was up in the air and down and I was completely relaxed,'' she said.

Ms Saunderson-Warner said a combination of factors reduced her client's culpability.

The windscreen wipers did not go to the extremities of the windscreen on the bus and two vertical pillars at the front of the bus created blind spots, she said.

The victim was wearing dark clothing and the street lights were insufficient to illuminate her, the court heard.

But Ms Saunderson-Warner said Hinds accepted he should have seen the trio and admitted responsibility for the incident.

Judge Michael Crosbie agreed - with the support of the victim - the driver should not be disqualified.

However, he fined Hinds $400 and ordered him to pay the woman $200 to "ensure she's not out of pocket''.

Outside court, Hinds was asked how important it was that he kept his licence.

"It's big,'' he said.

He had left his car at home, expecting the worst. But driving the bus was not just about supplementing his superannuation.

"The social side is more important than a few hundred dollars a week,'' he said.

Despite the judge's decision, he said the greatest relief was going to the hospital and discovering the victim was not going to suffer any permanent damage.

- Otago Daily Times

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