WE should have sympathy for the family of Woorndoo’s John Richie who was killed in a road accident north of Terang on January 10 last year, but also spare a thought for young driver Braydan Bausch.
Nanjing Night Net

The 19-year-old was driving along the Terang-Mortlake Road when, while rounding a sweeping bend, he momentarily took his eyes off the road to pick up the second part of his toasted ham and cheese sandwich.

The front right-hand corner of his car drifted 1.25 metres onto the wrong side of the centre dividing double white lines.

Mr Richie saw a second or two before impact what was happening and tried to veer, but it was too late to avoid a head-on collision.

Bausch will have to live with the consequences for the rest of his life.

Bausch alone was responsible, but who among us can say you have not been momentarily distracted from the task of driving to pick up a hot coffee, find your sunglasses, look for a CD or just to turn and yell at the kids?

Magistrate Ian von Einem had a tough sentencing job. Bausch was charged with dangerous driving causing death.

It’s a relatively new charge and Warrnambool courts have dealt with a couple of such offences — one of the other cases involved Nullawarre bus driver Colin Collett, who received a suspended sentence after two of the school children who were his passengers were seriously injured.

Wickliffe-Lake Bolac footballer Dean McInnes will also be sentenced on the same charge on March 16 after pleading guilty to the offence following the road accident death of a teammate.

The interesting thing about Bausch’s case is that it did not involve speed, alcohol or drugs, he did not have a poor driving record and he only caused danger to other road users for a moment.

But his driving did cause the death of Mr Richie.

Mr von Einem initially didn’t even want to hear the case in the magistrates court because, with a 10-year maximum sentence, he didn’t think his court had the power to impose a suitable total sentence.

He only decided to hear Bausch’s case after the driver pleaded guilty and therefore attracted a sentencing discount for short-circuiting the criminal justice process which could have dragged on for up to three years.

Mr von Einem pointed out that Victorian Parliament had rightly banned drinking alcohol while driving — but it had not banned eating while driving.

The veteran magistrate found that Bausch’s moral culpability was low.

It’s interesting to compare his offence with other serious crimes, like intentionally breaking into someone’s property while they are home to steal or cause injury — some of those crooks don’t even go to jail.

Mr von Einem questioned how many of us, who drive considerable distances, could say we had not taken our eyes off the road to get a drink or find our sunglasses and found our vehicle had drifted to the left or right.

He said Bausch’s accident was a timely reminder to all motorists about our responsibilities while driving — and the tragic consequences which could flow from a moment’s inattention.

The magistrate also found that Mr Richie did not contribute to the accident and noted that his family and friends had not provided victim impact statements to the court.

Mr von Einem said in such cases it would be usual for defendants to be sentenced to serve immediate terms of imprisonment, but the lack of any aggravating factors led him to impose a wholly suspended jail sentence of 12 months suspended for two years.

He said the only aggravating factor was the significant injuries suffered in the accident and the only thing that has changed in Bausch’s life was that he was now responsible for the death of another person.

Surely there is room for the law to recognise that accidents happen and that without the aggravating factors of alcohol, drugs, speed or recklessness there should be a strong argument for leniency.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.