Driver’s use of GPS questioned

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A judge has taken aim at the ”modern phenomenon” of drivers following GPS rather than watching the road, after a Chinese tourist caused a smash near Queenstown.

Zhenjun Zhao, 28,  appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday, following a stint with his wife Bo Liu in Dunedin Hospital.

The pair were airlifted there after the January 16 crash at Arrow Junction resulted in lacerations to the defendant’s head and chest, and his partner sustained bowel injuries.

Zhao pleaded guilty to careless driving causing injury.

c said it was lucky two other motorists involved in the incident walked away unharmed.

The pair flew to Auckland on January 11, then on to Christchurch.

From there they drove to Tekapo and Wanaka in a rental car, with overnight stays at each destination.

On the day of the crash, Zhao drove to Arrowtown over the Crown Range, where they stopped for an hour.

They planned to travel down to Queenstown that afternoon but on the way, disaster struck.

After driving south on McDonnell Rd, Zhao came to an intersection with State Highway 6 at Arrow Junction and indicated to turn right.

Meanwhile, a car on SH6 was waiting to turn right into McDonnell Rd, as a salvage truck approached on the highway from the opposite direction.

Zhao pulled out into the path of the truck, which hit the right of the Nissan hire-car he was in, spinning it around and into a road sign.

The truck then ploughed into the third car waiting to turn, Sergeant Chris George said.

The court heard Ms Liu was directing her husband using the car’s GPS system.

Judge Phillips said he knew of the intersection where the incident occurred.

”It requires a driver to be careful and to keep a close watch to his or her right, because traffic is coming over a brow of a hill and on your left there is traffic coming off a road bridge,” he said.

”It would appear to me that you were more intent on this modern phenomenon of following GPS trails rather than paying attention to the roads you were travelling on.”

Defence counsel Jo Turner said the couple had to delay their departure and had been surviving on money sent from China, she said.

The rental car was fully insured up to $1million.

Judge Phillips said the driving conduct was ”patently careless” and he disregarded the fact the defendant was a tourist for the purpose of sentencing.

He ordered Zhao to pay the drivers of the other vehicles affected $750 each and banned him from driving for nine months.

The defendant must come up with the cash by Friday, the judge said.

Otago Daily Times – Rob Kidd