In re death of Sizeland (2013) H&FLR 2015-22

Inquest into the death of Rex Sylvester Sizeland (2013) H&FLR 2015-22

Coroners’ Court of Victoria

28 June 2013

Coram: Coroner Parkinson

Appearing for the family of the deceased: Mr G Stewart (solicitor)
Appearing for Mr Costa: Mr T Bourke (instructors not identified).

Catchwords: Victoria – Coroner – cyclist – hit by car – distracted driver – death

Facts: The deceased was aged 66 years and an experienced road cyclist.  On 21 December 2009 he was riding between Torquay and Barwon Heads. During the ride, he and the other two men with whom he was riding were struck from behind by a car driven by a Mr Costa.

The evidence of lay witnesses was that the deceased and the other two riders were to the left of the road and using about half of the width of the northbound lane.  The court concluded that there was no reason for Mr Costa not to have noticed the cyclists.  The court was somewhat critical of his evidence and considered it likely that he had been distracted by something inside the vehicle, although it could not conclude that he had been reading a text message.

Held:  That Mr Sizeland’s death was preventable and that the death could have been prevented had he paid proper attention to the task of driving.  No action of Mr Sizeland’s caused his death.

Judgment

The Court’s judgment is available here.

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In re death of Bailey (2014) H&FLR 2015-16

Inquest into the death of Keiran Bailey (2014) H&FLR 2015-16

Coroners’ Court of Victoria

25 August 2014

Coram: Coroner Spanos

No appearances.

Catchwords: Victoria – Coroner – cyclist – hit by car – death – mental illness – fitness to drive – duty to report

Facts: The deceased was aged 44 years.  On 8 March 2011 at around 1:45pm he cycled from his home to a shopping centre.  He was cycling in a designated bike lane of a road.  The car lanes of the road at the relevant point narrowed from three lanes to two. A car driven by a Mr Veerman, travelling at least 10 kph (6 mph) above the speed limit failed to merge, drove into the bike lane and struck the deceased, causing fatal injuries.  Mr Veerman fled the scene and was subsequently convicted of a range of offences relating to the collision: R v Veerman (2011), Herald Sun, 23 December 2011*.

In the years before the collision Mr Veerman had suffered from marked mental illness and had received some level of psychiatric care.  He held a drivers licence at the time of the collision.

Held: It was recommended that medical professionals be educated to ensure patients’ fitness to drive would be at the front of doctors’ minds when assessing patients with conditions likely to affect their capacity to drive safely.

Judgment

The Court’s judgment is available here.

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* A partially successful appeal by Veerman was subsequently brought: Veerman v R (Vic. Ct App., Weinberg and Harper JJA, T Forrest AJA, 24 August 2012, unreported).

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In re death of Peoples (2010) H&FLR 2015-14

Inquest into the death of Scott David Peoples (2010) H&FLR 2015-14

Coroners’ Court of Victoria

11 October 2010

Coram: Coroner Bryant

Counsel assisting the Coroner: Mr John Goetz
Appearing for the family of the deceased: Mesdames Jane Dixon SC and Esther James (instructed by Riordan Legal).
Appearing for the Blay family*: Mr Barrett (Instructed by Barretts Lawyers)
Appearing for VicRoads: Mr Trevor Wraight (instructed by DLA Phillips Fox)
Appearing for the Chief Commissioner of Police: Ms Julia Greenham (instructed by the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office)
Appearing for the Cycling Victoria: Mr K. Mueller.

Catchwords: Victoria – Coroner – cyclist – hit by car – death – fitness to drive – duty to report

Facts**: The deceased was a 20 year old cyclist.  At the time of his death he was on the verge of cycling professionally.  While on a training ride on the Maroondah Highway near Merton he was struck from behind by a Nissan patrol driven by a Mr Kenneth Blay.  Mr Peoples died as a result of his injuries.

At the point of collision the road was paved, with a two metre paved shoulder.  The road runs straight and slightly uphill.  Mr Blay stated that he did not see the deceased prior to the collision and was only made aware of the collision by the noise of impact.  He subsequently pleaded guilty to a charge of careless driving: Police v Blay (Mansfield Magistrates court, 1 August 2007, unreported).

Blay’s speed at the time of the collision was estimated at 73 kph (45 mph).  Police considered that he would have had 500-600 metres of unimpeded vision.  The collision was considered to have occurred on the paved shoulder of the road.  Blay had a significant left-side blind spot as a result of a stroke.  In 2004 he had also been involved in a collision with a cyclist on the same road.

Held: 1. The Court strongly recommended mandatory reporting by doctors to licensing authorities of patients considered unfit to drive on medical grounds.  It was not sufficient merely to recommend the patient not drive.

2. Cyclists and motorists share an obligation to use the roads in a safe manner.  However, the particular vulnerability of cyclists imposes an obligation on motorists to drive in a manner that does not put cyclists’ lives at risk

Judgment

The Court’s judgment is available here.

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* Blay had died by the time of the inquest.
** In assessing the facts, note that the Coroner was scathingly critical of the police investigation.

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