I was going to write about something else this week-end - the subject of forgiveness, if you must know - but am not ready to yet, and I thought some of you might want to know what the outcome of my court case was.
I pled 'guilty.'
Sort of. I went to see a local lawyer. He allowed as how I was sure to get off from the charge of careless driving (had I said in these maunderings that I was charged with careless driving? If I hadn't, I was), but that it was a fact that I had passed out whilst driving, that I was, in his terms, in 'mature years' (that means 'old' :-)), and that I didn't want to encourage prosecutors to advise the licensing authorities that it might be as well that a medical investigation be taken into my suitability as a driver.
I have no previous record of any driving trouble, not even a speeding ticket. Mr Blackwood said that if I asked for what is called 'diversion,' I was certain to be granted it. 'Diversion' means that you do some action - sort of like doing your penance after Confession :-) - and then you are not listed as convicted.
So it was. On the 16th of July, 9 in the morning, I appeared at court in Pukekohe, together with fifteen or twenty other ne'er-do-wells. We were called up in alphabetic order. Some of us were definitely goats. The duty lawyer tells them that they are not eligible for diversion (presumably they are old customers), and must appear at 10AM when court is in session.
The rest of us are the sheep. "Enter, ye who have not been here before, into the relative joy of diversion."
I never even got to see a JP (non-prisonable offences, such as mine, are seen only by Justices of the Peace; you have to hurt somebody to see a proper judge). The Clerk of Courts gives me a little form to sign. I have until the 24th of September to :
- Get a statement from my insurance company testifying that all financial claims have been taken care of.
- Do a "Defensive Driving" course.
I have had two sessions so far. The time spent is a nuisance, of course, and much of the instruction is not terribly relevant to me - I am not highly tempted to take girls out driving and show off by doing burn-outs in my 'van - the course being aimed especially at young persons. But it has been not unpleasant, has been a little instructive, and not terribly expensive ($170 - I don't know yet how much the lawyer will cost - less, I hope, than $500, from what I have heard). There are 9 of us in the course. Only one many is of 'mature years' - mid-50's I would guess. He and two of the young boys there are there for diversion, like me. The other five are also young - still in high school. One of them says he just wants to improve his driving.
The other four are there because of a change in the New Zealand licensing laws that happened ten or fifteen years ago. It used to be that you got your learner's licence. You then had to wait a certain length of time - six months?? - and took a road test. You now had a full licence.
Now you take the written test and get a learner's licence (and have to post a big yellow 'L' in your car's rear window). After some months you take a road test. If you pass, you now have a restricted licence. You can't carry passengers - or maybe it's that you can't carry passengers unless you are accompanied by an older full-licensed driver. There are other restrictions.
After another long time - a year if you are under 25 - you can take another road test. But this one is different. You have to drive properly - and, in addition, the tester tells you to explain what potential hazards you encountered, and how you might have dealt with them. That's a bit scarier.
The DD course is there in part to teach the young persons how to do that. And it does another thing. It knocks six months off that obligatory waiting time. And that is why four of the people in the class are there.
I quite enjoy the class. It is a pleasure getting to know these people in this context. I suppose they are not statistically average - after all, they (or their parents) are paying $170 for the course. They are doing a fair bit of work (I have to - sigh! - make a safe-driving poster! And there is quite a lot of other home work). They seem serious about learning to drive well. One of them, a young girl, wants to learn to drive racing cars for sport, for goodness' sake!
So it has been fun. But I will be glad when it is all over :-)