Judge warns of need for care on NZ roads

The importance of drivers being vigilant on New Zealand roads was highlighted by a Dunedin judge who yesterday sentenced a woman involved in a fatal head-on collision.

Valda Joy Matheson (60), hairdresser, Table Hill, Clutha, was disqualified from driving for nine months on a charge of careless driving causing death following a crash on State Highway 1, at Stony Creek, between Balclutha and Milton, about 5.35pm on June 25.

The court heard Matheson's vehicle momentarily crossed the centre line before the crash, which resulted in the death of Beverly Joyce Watson.

Judge Dominic Flatley said the crash highlighted the importance of drivers staying vigilant, especially given New Zealand roads were ''not the best''.

The crash was caused by a tragic accident ''that could potentially happen to anyone'', Judge Flatley said.

''These are very, very difficult sentencing exercises because of the tragic nature of the facts.''

The consequences of the crash had been ''catastrophic for all concerned'', including the families of both the victim and Matheson.

Judge Flatley recorded a voluntary $5000 reparation payment Matheson had made to the victim's husband and acknowledged the distress Matheson had gone through since the accident.

''You will carry it with you for the rest of your life and that, in itself, is a sentence,'' he told Matheson.

Defence counsel Anne Stevens earlier said the victim impact statements from the victim's husband and parents ''had a very great impact'' on Matheson.

Matheson had a good driving record and investigations by police and the defence showed it only took three-quarters of a second to end up on the wrong side of the road.

It was dark and raining heavily at the time of the crash and the fact both drivers were coming up to the crest of a hill meant ''there was no time for evasive action''.

Matheson was an upstanding member of the community, who had volunteered for various groups, and being responsible for a fatal accident was ''a burden she never expected to carry and it will be with her for life''.

She had not been driving in the six months since the crash and had donated $500 to St John and $200 to Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust.

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