He pleaded guilty to culpable driving by negligence. Accused, with three friends, drive to the beach at Seaspray, enjoyed barbeque and were drinking earlier that night. That evening, accused drove a relatively short distance to visit a friend as he was the least drunk. Driving at a speed of 126 kilometres per hour in an 80 kilometres per hour zone, he lost control of the car, got into the gravel, struck a pole and the victim who was not wearing a seat belt was thrown from the car.
Victim suffered fatal injuries and died at the scene. A bystander was also injured and suffered bruised kidneys and an injured back. The three other occupants of the car driven by the accused received minor injuries. His blood alcohol reading was .085.
Accused had pleaded guilty to culpable driving by negligence. The court noted that the accused was driving at more than 50 per cent over the speed limit. It was a flagrant breach of a law which exists to ensure the safety of drivers and their passengers. Worse, his blood alcohol reading was .085 per cent; as he was then a probationary driver, it was unlawful for him to drive with any alcohol whatsoever in his blood. That, too, was a flagrant breach of a law designed to reduce the risk of accidents of exactly this kind.
The maximum sentence for culpable driving is 20 years’ imprisonment. The judge rejected accused’s argument that imprisonment is excessive. The court points out that the maximum penalty for the crime of culpable driving causing death to 20 years imprisonment is the same maximum penalty as for manslaughter. Although culpable driving is not deliberate or intentional, the law denounces driving in grossly negligent manner, more so with alcohol and excessive speed. Imprisonment is an appropriate deterrent for such conduct.
Source: Chaplin v The Queen  VSCA 145 (18 June 2010)