NSW truck driver jailed over distraction deaths

Courier truck driver jailed for minimum 18 months after taking his eyes off the road and killing motorist and tow truck driver

NSW truck driver jailed over distraction deaths
Truck driver sentenced over double fatality


A New South Wales courier truck driver has been sentenced to three years in jail over a fatal accident on the Hume Highway in February 2012.

Kaine Barnett, 26, was handed a minimum term of 18 months in Parramatta District Court last week after being found guilty of two counts of dangerous driving causing death.

University student Sarah Frazer, 23, and tow truck driver Geoffrey Clark, 40, were killed instantly by Barnett’s truck as Mr Clarke was loading Ms Frazer’s broken-down car in a narrow breakdown lane near Berrima, between Sydney and Goulburn.

An ABC News report on the sentencing hearing in Parramatta District Court said Barnett was distracted by looking in his rear-vision mirror and reaching for his water bottle.

Justice Stephen Hanley reportedly acknowledged Barnett was distracted, but said he had failed in his obligation to check that the road ahead was clear.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Justice Hanley said he did not like sending a young man with no prior criminal history to jail, but he needed to send a message of deterrence to the general public and particularly to the drivers of heavy vehicles.

The newspaper said the Crown alleged Barnett must have been distracted for almost eight seconds to have missed the hazard and flashing lights on the side of the road.

It quoted the judge as saying he did not accept the submission of Barnett's counsel that the crash occurred due to a period of "momentary inattention".

"The jury found the offender failed to keep a proper look-out for a significant period of time," the judge is quoted as saying. "His manner of driving [meant] a large number of people were placed at risk".

The court heard Barnett was not speeding or affected by drugs or alcohol.

The media reported that Ms Frazer’s father, Peter Frazer, hugged Barnett as he was sentenced to prison, both men weeping.

A video on the Sydney Morning Herald website shows Frazer displaying further sympathy for the guilty truck driver.

"We don't hate him, we feel so sorry that he has to go through this, the rest of his life is also ruined," Mr Frazer says.

"We hope that the only positive thing that comes out of this is that it becomes a clear signal to the community that we can't have people drive distracted. People die, families are shattered.

"We don’t want Kaine to be there in prison for the next 18 months to three years … but it has to act as a signal to the rest of the community, you’ve got to change your habits."

Frazer is a road safety advocate with SARAH – Safer Australian Roads and Highways.

Last year, the NSW Government announced a package of measures in response to lobbying from SARAH, including widening the stretch of road where Sarah Frazer was killed; development of an online application to enable all first call and emergency services vehicle operators to click on any given point and see the width of the road shoulder; and advocating new tow truck standards for winching mechanisms to enable left hand side control.

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