Rodney Edward Whitbread
Rodney Edward Whitbread

Drunk dad lets 12yo boy drive

IMAGINE seeing a 12-year-old boy driving a Toyota troop carrier.

It would almost be comical, if it wasn't so dangerous.

Throw into the mix an alcohol-affected dad riding shotgun, a brother without a seatbelt and instead of a smooth roadway, the vehicle is travelling on sand on Fraser Island.

Now you've got all the ingredients for a "major catastrophe".

This is how police described the actions of Canberra man Rodney Edward Whitbread, who'd had a few beers when he allowed his 12-year-old son to take the wheel on Fraser Island's Eastern Beach on January 19.

His other son, 14, was in the back seat without a seatbelt.

State traffic branch police witnessed the four-wheel drive travelling past them with its child driver about 1.35pm.

There was no mention in court of how fast the vehicle was going, but the speed limit on that stretch of beach is believed to be 80kmh.

Whitbread, 49, had an alcohol content of .113.

He told police he had brought his sons up from the ACT for a holiday on Fraser Island and thought he would teach them how to drive because the weather had been too poor to go fishing.

Sergeant Tony McCarthy, head of the Maryborough Police Traffic Branch, said with an inexperienced and unlicensed driver at the wheel on difficult terrain, a supervising driver affected by alcohol and a passenger without a seatbelt, it wouldn't take much for the situation to turn deadly.

"The ingredients are there for a major catastrophe," Sgt McCarthy said.

"People go to Fraser Island in holiday mode, but this doesn't relieve them of driving within the road rules."

Sgt McCarthy said conditions on the island could be treacherous and he'd even seen experienced drivers roll their vehicles on that notorious stretch of beach.

Whitbread yesterday pleaded guilty in Hervey Bay Magistrates Court to drink-driving, permitting someone to drive unlicensed and failing to ensure a child aged between 7-16 was wearing a seatbelt.

He was fined $750 and disqualified from driving for two months.


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