The Very Real Risk of Driving in a Foreign Country
West Australian man Luke Nardini, who has reportedly been charged with manslaughter over a deadly crash in San Francisco, has been ordered to stay in California while he awaits further court dates.
In September this year, he was allegedly involved in a car crash that claimed the lives of two people. The Mercury News reported that Mr Nardini’s BMW was travelling in the wrong direction on Highway 84 in California when it collided with a Ford Taurus on a tight blind turn.
It was reported that Mr Nardini was travelling east in the westbound lane of the highway at the time of the accident. It was said that Mr Nardini had not been in the US long and therefore was not familiar with the winding two-lane road. California Highway Patrol officer David LaRock said Mr Nardini may have thought that he was driving on the correct side of the road.
The tragedy brings back memories of the case of Rubin v The State of Western Australia. In that case, the Western Australian Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by an American tourist who killed his wife and a small child when he drove onto the wrong side of the road.
The judges unanimously dismissed the appeal by the appellant, who was sentenced to 18-month imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to two counts of dangerous driving causing death, three counts of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm and one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
The court heard that Mr Rubin believed he was driving on a dual carriageway when he crossed onto the wrong side of Albany Highway and hit another car. Mr Rubin’s wife died at the scene. The passengers in the other car were seriously injured, including a toddler who later died in hospital.
Mr Rubin was not speeding and was not affected by alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash. However, the court heard that he had been driving on the wrong side of the road for almost a minute and had failed to notice four road signs that indicated he was not driving on a dual carriageway.
Mr Rubin’s accident demonstrates the very real dangers for tourists who drive in another country where the driving is conducted on the opposite side of the road to the side of the road in the country that they are from.
Driving itself, let alone in a foreign country, should always be exercised with a high level of concentration. Of course, each country has its own road rules. However, road rules in each country do appear to be becoming more uniform globally; for example, these days in many countries it is illegal to drive while handling a mobile phone.
The Vienna Convention – standardised road signs
In 1968, the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals was established by the United Nations Economic and Social Council specifically to standardise road and traffic signs and signals internationally, and even though the Convention has gone a long way towards improving road safety around the globe, tragic accidents still frequently occur. Being unfamiliar with Australian road rules or conditions or unfamiliar with the language is not an available defence in court.
Driver’s Licence requirements for tourists in Australia
Foreign travellers can drive using an overseas licence and can travel with their valid home country licence and a passport as additional ID for up to 90 days, so long as the licence is valid. They can only drive vehicles that are authorised under their current licence class in their home country.
If the overseas licence is a language other than English a translation of it into the English language must also be carried.
What is dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm or death?
Under the Road Traffic Act WA dangerous driving causing death or grievous bodily harm falls under section 59 which (basically) states:
If a motor vehicle being driven by a person (the driver) is involved in an incident occasioning the death or grievous bodily harm to, another person and the driver was, at the time of the incident, driving the motor vehicle-
- While under the influence of alcohol or drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle; or
- 2. In a manner (which includes speed) that is, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, dangerous to the public or any person.
the driver commits a crime.
Dangerous Driving Causing Grievous Bodily Harm has a maximum penalty of 7 years. The penalty extends to 14 years if the offence is committed in circumstances of aggravation.
A person found guilty of Dangerous Driving Occasioning Death faces a maximum penalty of 10 years, or 20 years if the offence is committed in circumstances of aggravation.
Circumstances of aggravation include:
1. driving a vehicle without the owner's consent;
2. driving at speeds of 45km/hr or more;
3. attempting to escape pursuit by police.
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PLEASE NOTE: The material in this blog post is for informational use only and should not be construed as legal advice. For answers to your questions regarding this or other topics, please contact a professional legal representative.