Kingaroy man Dale Hennighan has been placed on probation after crashing into oncoming traffic on the D’Agulair Highway. (Picture: Social Media)
Kingaroy man Dale Hennighan has been placed on probation after crashing into oncoming traffic on the D’Agulair Highway. (Picture: Social Media)

‘Momentary inattention’ causes driver to hit oncoming car

AFTER taking his eyes off the road to reach for something on the floor, a 26-year-old Kingaroy man veered out of his lane into oncoming traffic, hitting a car and causing it to drive off the road and into an embankment.

The crash that was put down to momentary inattention left one driver trapped in his car with broken ribs and a broken ankle.

Dale Patrick Hennighan pleaded guilty to one charge of driving without due care or attention or driving without consideration for other persons using roads causing death or grievous bodily harm at Kingaroy Magistrates Court on October 13.

The court heard on September 22, 2019, Hennighan was driving along the D'Aguilar Highway in South Nanango when he reached for an asthma puffer or a lolly before crashing into an oncoming vehicle.

READ MORE: CARNAGE: Burnett Hwy's deadly history revealed in numbers

Police prosecutor Senior Sergeant Pepe Gangemi told the court the victim was airlifted to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital.

"On September 19, 2019 at 6pm the defendant was driving a Ford utility vehicle in Nanango heading south when he left his lane and collided with the front drivers side of a Nissan utility, which was heading north," Sen Sgt Gangemi said.

"The victim's vehicle left the road before stopping in an embankment where he was trapped and had to be extricated.

"When police arrived and spoke with the defendant he said he looked down for either an asthma puffer or a lolly, causing the crash to happen."

Sen Sgt Gangemi handed Magistrate Andrew Sinclair a previous case where a driver was disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence for 18 months after he was charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.

READ MORE: Kingaroy man's huge fine for lying about COVID hotspot visit

Hennighan's defence lawyer Jay Rose from Roesgold Legal also submitted two previous cases related to momentary inattention and said the contributing factors in the first case were different to that of the case currently in court.

"In the first case, two people were injured, one incurred a permanent brain injury, a fracture to the base of the skull and spine, fractured ribs, ankle, wrist, fluid in the lungs and the second one had a broken arm and significant bleeding," Ms Rose said.

"That sentence was based on those injuries and the more serious driving.

"My client has no criminal history and only has one entry on traffic history for a speeding offence.

"There was no suggestion he was speeding, no suggestion he was under the influence of any substances or driving in a dangerous manor, it was momentary inattention."

READ MORE: Woman killed in horror crash between Nanango and Kingaroy

The two other cases Ms Rose handed to the Magistrate both referred to professional driving where one driver was driving a truck and the other a taxi, where the court ruled there was no formula for momentary inattention and the ruling depended on the seriousness of the driving.

Magistrate Andrew Sinclair said unlike the other two cases, the defendant is not a professional driver, however must have looked down for long enough to drift into the other lane.

"You pleaded guilty to this offence, allowing yourself to be distracted for a short period of time while reaching for something on the highway where the speed limit was 100km an hour," Magistrate Sinclair said.

"Driving is one of the few things we all do most days where we can kill someone and in your case that momentary inattention didn't result in a good outcome for the victim.

"The victim suffered injuries to their ankle and ribs, which required hospitalisation and that boils down to dumb luck, they could of died just as easily.

"You only have one entry in your criminal history, this is the briefest period of inattention and unlike the cases which were discussed here you are not a professional driver and you weren't driving a large or dangerous vehicle."

Hennighan was placed on a nine month probation period and was disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence for six months.

No convictions were recorded.