Head of highway patrol Sergeant Dallas Leven, front, and Leading Senior Constable Richard Allison at the site where a car containing three young men was driven into the Clarence River while the driver was drunk.
Head of highway patrol Sergeant Dallas Leven, front, and Leading Senior Constable Richard Allison at the site where a car containing three young men was driven into the Clarence River while the driver was drunk. Adam Hourigan

Trio cheat death as car sinks

THE driver of a car that finished in the Clarence River at Junction Hill at 10.10pm on April 12 and blew 0.125 is $700 out of pocket and off the road for a year, but it could have been worse for him and his two passengers.

Khale Gardiner, 19, of South Grafton fronted Grafton Local Court on Monday to answer charges of mid-range PCA and never having a licence. He was fined $500 for the drink-driving charge and another $200 for the unlicensed driver charge and disqualified from driving for a year.

The court heard that Gardiner and two other young men were driving down Carrs Creek Peninsular Road, which ends at a boat ramp on the bank of the river.

Gardiner failed to see the end of the road and drove the car at speed into the water.

He and his two companions were able to scramble out of the vehicle before it sank.

But for the Grafton Highway Patrol boss Sergeant Dallas Leven the situation could have been much worse.

“There could have been three dead people in the river,” Sgt Leven said.

The profile of the accident would have been all too familiar for Sgt Leven.

Police facts said the trio had driven out to Junction Hill after they drank an unknown amount of Fruity Lexia wine at Bob Liddiard Park in South Grafton.

They had travelled down the road, which has a dead end at the river, without realising their danger.

Sgt Leven said P-plate drivers were often not aware of the way alcohol can affect their driving and the length of time it stays in their systems.

“So far this year there have been 16 fatal accidents involving P-plate drivers,” he said.

“That’s 16 times my officers have had to identify a dead person at the morgue and 16 times they have delivered a death message to a parent.

“That’s a massive blow to the morale of these personnel.”

Sgt Leven said the trap many young drivers fall into was not realising how long alcohol stayed in their systems.

“They may realise that they’re over the limit and not drive, but think next morning that they’re right,” he said.

“In fact they may well be over the limit until lunch time the next day.”

He said the 0.02 limit for P-plate drivers was meant to discourage young people from driving at all if they were going to drink.

Sgt Leven said as well as the driving dangers there was also the severe penalties for drinking-driving.

“It ranges from a $300 fine to jail time if you kill someone while drink-driving,” he said.



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