A 64-year-old Stawell woman charged over a crash which killed four grandmothers on their way home from a night of line dancing is denying gross negligence over the fatalities.
Stawell resident Lorraine Nicholson pleaded not guilty at the Ballarat Magistrates Court on Friday to four counts of dangerous driving and four counts of culpable driving causing death.
Elaine Middleton, Margaret Ely, Dianne Barr and Claudia Jackson, aged 64 to 75, were returning home on May 5 when a Jeep Cherokee allegedly T-boned their Kia on an isolated stretch of road at Navarre.
All four women in the Kia died of internal injuries while Nicholson, who was driving the Jeep, suffered non life-threatening injuries.
The court was told Nicholson was allegedly travelling 94km/h in a 80km/h zone five seconds before the crash at the intersection of Stawell-Avoca Road and Ararat-St Arnaud Road.
Her barrister, David Hallowes SC, said the Crown case at its highest was there had been a failure to apply the brake due to inattention.
He said there was no suggestion drugs, alcohol, erratic driving, mobile phone use or fatigue contributed to the crash.
Mr Hallowes said Nicholson was familiar with the intersection, including a left hand bend before the junction.
“If anyone approached the intersection they knew, taking that left hand bend – there is no suggestion she fell asleep – foot comes off the accelerator, there’s 3.9 seconds to go (until the intersection) and for whatever reason the brake is not engaged at all,” Mr Hallowes said.
“It’s that period of time, the failure to apply the brakes due to inattention, that falls a long way behind the charge of negligent driving.”
Mr Hallowes conceded the collision was a catastrophe and tragic for the four women who died and for their families.
Mr Hallowes urged the court to omit the culpable driving charges, but magistrate Ron Saines refused.
Mr Saines said the accused knew the intersection and had appeared to have driven past speed warning signs.
Collision reconstruction expert Detective Leading Senior Constable Mick Hardiman agreed with the defence barrister that Nicholson was travelling between 93 to 94km/h in an 80km/h zone and her foot was not on the accelerator 110 metres before the collision.
“Someone starts taking their foot off the accelerator, someone is in control of that car and is consistent with someone trying to stop that vehicle,” Mr Hallowes put to Detective Leading Senior Constable Hardiman, to which he replied, “yes”.
It is alleged her car was travelling at 88km/h or 89km/h at the time of the collision.
The collision reconstruction expert agreed Nicholson could have comfortably stopped the vehicle at the intersection’s white line if she had applied the brakes.
Police informant Detective Sergeant Darren Williams said VicRoads had made plans to upgrade the intersection with rumble strips and extra speed warning signs.
Nicholson was remanded on trial bail to reappear in the County Court for a direction’s hearing on January 31.
Her bail conditions include to live at a stable address, not to contact prosecution witnesses, not to attend international points of departure and to surrender her passport.