Truck driver's tablet linked to 'tragic' death of elderly woman in Auckland crash - coroner

A delivery truck driver who hit and killed an elderly woman in Auckland in 2018 was potentially distracted by a tablet, a coroner has ruled.

The driver was travelling along St Luke's Rd in the suburb of Mt Albert on June 28, 2018, when 74-year-old Valerie Stewart was hit while using a walker, coroner Heather McKenzie said in her ruling. Stewart was taken to Auckland City Hospital and later died.

McKenzie said a tablet placed inside the truck's windscreen was a "significant" distraction. She ruled the tablet's placement was dangerous and "impeded or obstructed" the driver's view.     

Describing the crash as "tragic", the coroner called for greater awarenss of driver distraction risks. In her decision, McKenzie recommended police, WorkSafe and the NZ Transport Agency undertake a joint safety campaign regarding tablet use and other electronics in vehicles.

Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett said any road death involving a truck was felt severely by the industry.

"Distraction is one of the big contributors to road accidents across the board, particularly involving looking at electronic devices while driving, or having them in the driver's line of sight. 

"We take on board what the coroner has said, and we will continue to work with government agencies to raise awareness about the use of tablets and similar devices truck drivers use for work purposes.

Truck driver's tablet linked to 'tragic' death of elderly woman in Auckland crash - coroner
Photo credit: Supplied

"It takes a sustained period of education to change behaviour and we are on board for that."

McKenzie's ruling comes after fines for using a phone illegally while driving nearly doubled on April 30 - up to $150 from $80.