A road safety advocacy group says the case of a teen being acquitted of a dangerous driving charge after being caught doing 148kmh in an 80kmh zone sets a dangerous precedent.
Stuff reported yesterday that Kingston Webb, 18, had been acquitted of the charge, with Judge David Harvey amending it to a lesser charge of driving at excessive speed.
In November last year, Webb was caught on a speed camera doing 148kmh on State Highway 2 near Hawke's Bay Airport, which has a set speed limit of 80kmh.
Webb, who is an aspiring law student, argued in a judge-alone hearing that because of the layout and condition of that particular stretch of road, it was not dangerous for him to be doing that speed.
He argued that there are no driveways entering the road at that point, the lighting and conditions were good, there was no oncoming traffic, there was a median barrier in place, and he knew the road well.
Judge Harvey agreed and amended the charge, and Webb was fined $400 and ordered to pay $130 court costs, but was not disqualified from driving, as would likely have been the case if convicted of dangerous driving.
The case had led to some criticism online, with some accusing the judge of leniency based on Webb's ethnicity and career aspirations, while others have said it could discourage people from sticking to the speed limit.
Speaking this morning to TVNZ1's Breakfast programme, Students Against Dangerous Driving's Donna Govorko said speed limits were in place for a reason.
"Taking that speed on that road, you are actually driving dangerously, because you're not taking into consideration all the other factors," Ms Govorko said.
"The higher the speed you go, the greater the risk you take and the higher chance of a fatal or serious injury crash.
"People say, 'Oh, I know these roads, I drive them all the time,' but all sorts of things can just happen."
Ms Govorko said she believes other speeders could be encouraged to use this defence in future.
"Any decision set by a judge sets case law," she said. "If somebody in a similar situation gets caught again they can go, 'Oh well, that happened in that case, so why am I getting a different penalty?'
"We've got to be very careful - its a fine line I think that the courts make when they make these decisions.
"If you're only going to give someone a lenient penalty, what deterrent is there for people to change their behaviours?"