Sleeping driver crashes burning car near Dalby school

A TRAGEDY was thankfully averted after a man fell asleep at the wheel driving into Dalby, causing it to crash and erupt in flames near a school.

Paul Arthur Shorten, 50, faced Dalby Magistrates Court in formal attire on one charge of dangerously operating a motor vehicle.

Police prosecutor senior constable Jodie Tahana told the court of Shorten’s nap behind the wheel on August 17, when he was travelling west along Irvingdale Rd about 10.20am.

Witnesses saw Shorten’s car leave the road, hit a speed sign, a mailbox, enter a culvert, and then enter two driveway entrances along the side of the road.

Snr const Tahana said the defendant’s vehicle came to a stop in another driveway only 500m from a Dalby school.

“After hitting the first speed sign witnesses reported seeing flames coming from the vehicle,” she said.

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“Police arrived at the scene with QFES, and QAS all attending to the burning vehicle in a driveway, with the driver being treated in an ambulance.”

Witnesses told police it had looked like “the driver had drifted off to sleep”, as he continued to hit objects while the vehicle became engulfed in flames.

The court heard the driver was able to wake up and exit the car before it became fully involved.

Shorten tested negative to drugs and alcohol, and told police he was fatigued after driving from North Lakes earlier that morning.

Due to the restrictions brought on by the Covid crisis, solicitor Cherisse Breese represented Shorten by phone.

Ms Breese said the single father of three had no excuse for his conduct, and accepted his driving was dangerous.

Dalby Magistrates Court. Picture: File
Dalby Magistrates Court. Picture: File

Several character references were tendered to the court, to reinforce the electronic technician’s good character.

Magistrate Tracy Mossop told Shorten if he had killed someone during his inept driving, it would’ve “destroyed” the rest of his life due to the guilt.

She noted this incident had a “sobering” effect on him, as Shorten had been engaged in fatigue management following the crash.

“Whether or not you’ve done that because of a guilty conscience, selfish reasons for work, or you’ve gone ‘I really have stuffed up and I have to do something about it’,” Magristrate Mossop said.

“The fact that you’ve done it is commendable, and that’s the good thing.”

Shorten pleaded guilty and was disqualified from driving for six months, and fined $800.

A conviction was not recorded.