Carolyne Smith and Morgan Te Whata hope to save other Dunedin
residents from the turmoil they face.
Mrs Smith (66) was seriously injured when hit by the van Mr
Te Whata (67) was driving, as she was three-quarters of the
way across a Prince Albert Rd pedestrian crossing on
The incident, resulting in surgery and ongoing rehabilitation
for Mrs Smith and a court case against Mr Te Whata, has had a
huge impact on their families.
Now they have united to share their story, in the hope it
will prevent similar incidents from damaging the lives of
''We've got a unique opportunity to share our story and
increase people's awareness, to make them think and talk in
their family. Anything good that can come from our suffering
is positive,'' Mrs Smith said.
Mr Te Whata, who pleaded guilty to a charge of careless
driving causing injury, has diabetes, kidney problems and
He said he did not see Mrs Smith on the pedestrian crossing,
and in hindsight believed his medical conditions could have
affected his driving.
''I have regular diabetic, kidney and eye checkups, but have
never thought to ask whether I should be driving. I realise
now that it is a good idea to ask these questions about one's
health,'' he said.
Mr Te Whata, a roofer, was disqualified from driving for six
months and ordered to pay $2000 reparation when the case was
heard in the Dunedin District Court last week.
He later told the Otago Daily Times the prospect of
not being able to drive was daunting, limited a person's
independence and could affect their ability to work as well
as their living arrangements.
It was hard to give up something having done it every day for
decades, he said.
But being responsible for causing someone's injuries, and
knowing the trauma, anxiety and financial cost of those
injuries was worse.
''Also, in the early days, not knowing whether they are going
to survive is very scary and stressful. The police do not
allow you to have contact with the victim or their family to
say you are sorry or to ask how they are progressing,'' he
Mrs Smith spent 11 days in Dunedin Hospital, where she
underwent a knee reconstruction, and almost six weeks in the
Isis rehabilitation unit.
She had a fractured skull and broken collarbone, as well as a
badly damaged knee.
As a result of her skull fracture, just behind her right ear,
she had a constant ''screaming whistling'' in that ear and
had to listen to white noise to drown it out.
The impairment made noisy situations unbearable and was
likely to be permanent, she said.
''I'm a positive person, so it's going as well as it can, but
it's a bit of a struggle sometimes.''
Her husband David said the entire family was affected by the
incident; their children dropped work and family commitments
and he retired early as a ship's captain.
''It caused turmoil,'' he said.
Mr and Mrs Smith believed many people in the community were
concerned about being fit to drive, or whether a relative or
It was a hard topic to broach, and they hoped their story
would encourage more discussion about the risks and
consequences of driving with a physical impairment.
''It's a terrible thing for someone to lose their ability to
drive, and nobody wants to take that away from somebody when
it isn't necessary, but when families are in turmoil because
they don't want a relative to hurt someone else with their
driving, there needs to be a way of making that happen,'' Mrs
''Hopefully, this is a realistic way people can communicate
their fears. If families have to resort to hiding keys and
hiding cars, then that's really stressful for them as well,''
Mrs Smith hoped there would be more services for people
unable to drive, having experienced the loss of freedom due
to her injuries.
''I've lost my licence effectively for six months at least
and it really does increase your dependency on family and
A fit person, she went to the physio pool daily, did home
exercises and saw a physiotherapist three times a week.
''One of my goals is to ride my bike to the gym again, and to
dance again,'' she said.
• Mr Te Whata did not want to be photographed by
the Otago Daily Times for this article.