Couple angry at punishment for driver
The sun was shining and the air was crisp as Teresa O’Donnell drove toward the rural Waikato town made famous by hobbits.
She had spent four days getting to know her newborn granddaughter.
As Teresa rounded the slight bend on State Highway 29, her husband Gary in the passenger seat, she saw a car on her side of the road coming at her at 100kmh.
She swerved to the right, but the white rental car swerved with her and the vehicles crashed head-on.
Gary, screaming, writhed in pain. Teresa looked down to see her kneecap exposed.
It had been four weeks since the June 12 crash near Matamata and Teresa said the person responsible, an American tourist, was issued a ‘‘menial punishment’’.
A police media spokesman confirmed a 23-year-old man was to appear in Morrinsville District Court on June 21, charged with careless or inconsiderate vehicle operation causing injury, in relation to the crash.
The tourist, who has since left the country, pleaded guilty to the charge and was ordered to pay $5000 in reparation, Teresa said.
‘‘It’s menial punishment that [tourist drivers] are getting, but not only that, they’re coming here and they don’t understand our roads or the weather and they just drive like bloody idiots,’’ she said.
Teresa, 49, and Gary, 51, migrated to Christchurch from England 14 years ago, but for the past four years, they have been living and working in Sydney.
The couple’s daughter lives in Matamata. The injuries the pair sustained mean it could be weeks before they’re healthy enough to travel back to Australia.
Teresa suffered a compounded fracture to her left knee and will be in a leg cast for 12 weeks.
Gary has a fractured pelvis, a fractured wrist, a fractured right rib, a broken toe and bruising.
‘‘The reparation costs ... I don’t feel like that’s enough at all. It’s disgusting. But what do you do and where do you go from here?’’ Teresa said.
Teresa said overseas drivers were a big problem in New Zealand. But the Transport Agency’s chairman for its national visiting drivers project, Jim Harland, said the perception that crashes involving foreign drivers is increasing is not justified.
He said the issue shouldn’t be the nationality of the driver, but the driving itself.
Teresa and Gary O’Donnell were hit head-on by an tourist while driving on a 100kmh road near Matamata.