Driver’s fa­tal er­ror


Scott Nel­son died seven days short of his 41st birth­day.

The driver of the car that clipped his Ford SUV dur­ing a high speed over­tak­ing ma­noeu­vre, send­ing it cartwheel­ing off a ru­ral Waikato road and into a tree, had only that morn­ing passed her re­stricted driver’s li­cence.

Sarah Louise Bax­ter, 27, was sen­tenced to 10 months home de­ten­tion and or­dered to pay $2500 in emo­tional harm for her part in the crash that killed the fa­ther of two young boys.

There were emo­tional scenes in the Mor­rinsville District Court where those in at­ten­dance heard how Bax­ter and Nel­son had both en­gaged in some sort of high speed road rage as they trav­elled down the No.1 Road near Waitoa in Novem­ber last year.

Bax­ter, her­self a mother, was driv­ing her Ford Fal­con north from Mor­rinsville where she had just sat her re­stricted driv­ing test around 12.55pm on Wed­nes­day, Novem­ber 23.

At the same time Nel­son was also head­ing north along the same high­way as he headed home in his Ford SUV.

Another mo­torist in a Mercedes van was trav­el­ling at around 100kmh in front of the pair when he was over­taken first by Nel­son and then by Bax­ter.

Up ahead Bax­ter then at­tempted to over­take Nel­son but dur­ing the ma­noeu­vre col­lided with the right side of Nel­son’s SUV, send­ing both ve­hi­cles into a spin.

Nel­son’s ve­hi­cle crossed the cen­tre­line and rolled twice across the south­bound lane be­fore flip­ping end over end into a pad­dock. Nel­son died at the scene. Bax­ter’s car ended up in a drain. Judge Si­mon Men­zies started with a sen­tence of 3 years and six months be­fore tak­ing into ac­count Bax­ter’s lack of pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions, early guilty plea and of­fer to pay emo­tional harm at $50 a week.

He noted the po­ten­tial for the vic­tim’s driv­ing to have con­trib­uted and her clear re­morse.

Bax­ter had taken part in restora­tive jus­tice with Nel­son’s for­mer part­ner who in state­ments said she did not sup­port a jail term for Bax­ter.

Men­zies sen­tenced her to 10 months home de­ten­tion and dis­qual­i­fied her from driv­ing for two years.


Scott Nel­son died in a crash on No.1 Rd Waitoa.

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