Call for unlicensed drivers who cause death to go to jail

Audrey Dow was killed in a crash in 2013.
Audrey Dow was killed in a crash in 2013.

AFTER he crashed into the car of an 80-year-old Mackay woman, who later died from her injuries, Aaron Kite was fined and given another disqualification from driving.

When Coroner David O'Connell identified the gap in Queensland legislation that allowed Mr Kite to escape a harsher penalty, the family of Audrey Dow expected that the Attorney-General would take notice.

Instead, 18 months later, the law remains the same.

Now Mrs Dow's daughter, Angela Meiklejohn, has started a petition, calling for unlicensed or disqualified drivers who cause death or injury to be given a jail sentence.

The petition posted on Saturday has already attracted nearly 1000 signatures.


Tony Dow, Angela Meiklejohn, Jackquie Garnett, Emily Garnett and Brooke Garnett  attend the inquest into Audrey Dow's death in Mackay.
Tony Dow, Angela Meiklejohn, Jackquie Garnett, Emily Garnett and Brooke Garnett attend the inquest into Audrey Dow's death in Mackay. Andrea Davy

Mrs Dow died in July 2013, several hours after being involved in a crash in which a vehicle driven by Mr Kite, a disqualified driver, veered into the lane in which she was driving.

Mr Kite could only be charged with driving without due care and attention and was fined $4000.

When Coroner O'Connell released the findings of an inquest into Mrs Dow's death in March last year he noted that Mr Kite had been using his phone at the time of the crash.

He also identified a gap in Queensland legislation, and recommended that the Attorney-General introduce a mid-range driving offence between dangerous driving and driving without due care and attention.

The Coroner recommended the law include a circumstance of aggravation for drivers who had caused death and were driving without a licence.

But Ms Meiklejohn said that after receiving a letter from the Attorney-General "a good six months ago", nothing had been done.

"The anniversary keeps ticking... It's been three years since Mum passed and nothing seems to have been done. We haven't heard a yes or a no," she said.

"It's like sweeping it under the carpet. Someone dies, and the family's left to put the pieces back together."

To add salt to the wound, since the inquiry findings were released, Ms Meiklejohn had seen a similar case in the media, where a driver who caused the death of a woman in her 50s escaped custody.

"It's absolutely gut-wrenching. You don't understand how your mother could be killed like that, taken away from you, and then nothing happens. It's very difficult," she said.

Ms Meiklejohn said global research had shown that unlicensed and disqualified drivers were more likely to cause death or serious injuries.

She will continue to fight for legislation change to prevent others from going through her experience.

"Our Mum would want us to keep trying to do that I think, so that no other people have to suffer the same way - lose their life, actually - for this," Ms Meiklejohn said.

Mrs Dow's death is still felt keenly by her family.

"It's not easy, there's always anniversaries and things that come up and you think of your Mum all the time," Ms Meiklejohn said.

"Sometimes I'll come home and I'll ring Mum, even now, I'll realise that I can't do it, because it was so sudden. One minute she was absolutely fine and the next thing - gone."

A Transport and Main Roads spokesman said the Department was "currently reviewing the penalties for careless driving offences that result in death or grievous bodily harm".

"We're committed to taking steps to achieve our vision of zero deaths and injuries on our roads," the spokesman said.

Topics:  coroner disqualified driving editors picks petition

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