Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Death of Sharon Ann D'ERCOLE

Inquest into the Death of Sharon Ann D’ERCOLE

Delivered on :28 February 2017

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Deputy State Coroner Vicker

Recommendations :Yes

The need for a public education campaign to remind the driving public of their obligations under the Road Traffic Code. 

Keeping clear of police and emergency vehicles 

(1)     A driver shall give way to, and make every reasonable effort to give a clear and uninterrupted passage to, every police or emergency vehicle that is displaying a flashing blue or red light (whether or not it is also displaying other lights) or sounding an alarm.

 Points: XX Modified penalty: XX

 (2)     This regulation applies to a driver despite any other regulation that would otherwise require the driver of a police or emergency vehicle to give way to the driver.

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : Yes

  • There be no recording or publication of any information or image which may identify or tend to identify the police passenger and;
  • There be no reporting or publication of the details of discussion surrounding operational aspects of police urgent duty/emergency driving policies and procedures.

Summary : The deceased was a fit and healthy woman aged 50 years with three children at the time of her death when she left home to take her 16 year old daughter to the bus stop for a birthday treat in the city. The deceased drove her vehicle through an intersection and was hit by a police vehicle which at the time was in pursuit of a stolen vehicle.

Evidence at the inquest hearing suggested the deceased slowed her vehicle at the intersection as a result of a stolen car as it passed through, but the deceased appears not have registered the police vehicle following behind it. At the time the police vehicle had the police lights activated and the siren was clearly audible.  At the intersection the driver of the police vehicle had observed the deceased’s vehicle as a potential hazard.  However, the police vehicle continued through the intersection and collided head on with the driver’s side of the deceased’s vehicle and caused a serious crash which resulted in the deceased’s fatal injuries.

The Deputy State Coroner found the driver of the police vehicle made a risk assessment as to the safety of continuing through, unfortunately, this was a serious error of judgement. The Deputy State Coroner found the actions of the police officers in the police vehicle caused the death of the deceased.  However, those actions were undertaken during the course of legitimate law enforcement activities which require a police driver to make split second risk assessments.

The Deputy State Coroner concluded that it was clear a significant number of the driving public are not aware of their obligation to give way to emergency vehicles when those vehicles are displaying red or blue lights or sounding an alarm. In this context the Deputy State Coroner recommended the need for public education and to remind the driving public of their obligations under the Road Traffic Code.

The Deputy State Coroner found the deceased died on 12 April 2012 at Royal Perth Hospital as a result of multiple injuries and death occurred by way of accident.

Catch Words : Police Pursuit : Public Education on Emergency Vehicles : Give Way to Emergency Vehicles : Police Urgent duty/emergency driving policies and procedures : Risk Assessment : Accident

Last updated: 30-Apr-2019

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