Drug-drivers ‘can be murderers’

Walter Dalziel has had to learn how to live with pain.

The 77-year-old Dunedin man suffered 21 broken bones after a meth-fuelled driver smashed into his ute in the Manuka Gorge three years ago, and he still lives with the effects.

The man responsible, Nicholas David Taylor, was sentenced to more than two years’ jail.

But Mr Dalziel says a worse fate could be in store for those who drive under the influence of drugs.

Dunedin man Walter Dalziel was left with 21 broken bones and a range of other injuries after a...
Dunedin man Walter Dalziel was left with 21 broken bones and a range of other injuries after a drug-driver crashed into his ute three years ago. PHOTOS: STEPHEN JAQUIERY & SUPPLIED

"You can be murderers."

Police figures show there were 37 drug-driving offences in the Southern district last year.

Incidents had been steadily rising in recent years, from 29 in 2016 to 54 in 2019, before the drop last year. Police said that could be due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Behind the statistics have been some very real consequences, which Mr Dalziel has had to live through.

Immediately after his crash, it was not clear if he would live at all — and after realising the extent of his injuries, whether he wanted to.

He can still remember the impact of the other vehicle, which he tried to avoid by swerving, on the morning of May 2, 2018.

He was trapped in his truck, but his legs were so badly injured he would not have been able to get out even if the door was not stuck.

The pain was intense.

"If you’re in a remote area and you’re badly smashed up, sometimes the dead are the lucky ones."

He was flown to Dunedin Hospital, where he spent the next 79 days.

His catalogue of injuries makes for tough reading: broken ribs, a broken sternum, bruising on both his heart and brain, both legs broken, both kneecaps smashed, a broken ankle and broken bones in both feet.

For the first fortnight, he wanted to die.

"My life’s about doing physical things, and I thought I was badly damaged and wheelchairs and things just didn’t go with my way of life."

It was 56 days before he was allowed to get out of bed.

Three years later, nearly to the day, there are few obvious signs of his ordeal.

But he still experiences pain.

He also had to go through the protracted court process.

Taylor was convicted on two charges of driving under the influence of drugs causing injury, careless driving causing injury, possessing cannabis and breaching community work in June 2019.

Mr Dalziel is still angry that Taylor has never apologised for what he did.

He had a stark message for anyone thinking about driving under the influence of drugs.

"It’s not fair on the innocent person. They’re lethal weapons, vehicles.

"It’s a dirty crime, to do that."

According to the data, cannabis was the most common drug found in Southern ESR tests last year, followed by opioids.

Otago Coastal road policing manager Senior Sergeant Nik Leigh said MDMA appeared to be the drug of choice in Dunedin.

He was aware of one instance in which a person who had taken MDMA was found behind the wheel in a Dunedin car park so affected by drugs they could not put on their seatbelt.

More staff had been trained to do impairment testing than ever before, and that could be contributing to the recent increase in figures, he said.

daisy.hudson@odt.co.nz

 

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