Learner driver's grave lesson

CRASH SITE: North Shore Memorial Park in Schnapper Rock Rd, Albany.
CRASH SITE: North Shore Memorial Park in Schnapper Rock Rd, Albany.

A driving lesson in a cemetery went horribly wrong when a car left the road and smashed into gravestones.

Auckland Council is now hunting for the families of the people whose graves were hit.

Police were called to North Shore Memorial Park on Schnapper Rock Rd, Albany, just after 10am on July 7.

A woman was allegedly trying to show her relative how to drive in New Zealand when she lost control of the car, police say.

No-one was injured but seven gravestones were severely damaged.

A 24-year-old Schnapper Rock woman was charged with careless use of a motor vehicle and appeared in the North Shore District Court on July 15.

She was offered diversion, which she completed, and the charge was withdrawn when she appeared again on July 22.

The council has only been able to contact one of the seven families whose loved ones' graves were damaged.

Council's cemeteries manager Catherine Moore says it is a challenge keeping contact details up to date across the cemetery network.

"People move house, change phone numbers or even pass away themselves, and we are left without a way of getting in touch with a family member or next of kin."

Moore says the council acknowledges the crash was an accident and the people involved are very apologetic.

"We wouldn't at all recommend or endorse our cemetery access roads for driving lessons and think this was simply a bad judgement call."

Accidental damage happens from time to time when a visitor to the cemetery misjudges a parking space or road edge, Moore says.

The AA recommends driving lessons should be done in a quiet area with a low volume of traffic and without any hazards such as drains on the side of the road.

National driver training manager Karen Dickson says it is important to find a safe place so that the student is not at risk of other motorists assuming they can drive.

"You can get a bit flustered when people are coming past and don't see the L plates. It all contributes to the nerves. The quieter it is the better."

AA project and programme delivery co-ordinator Simon Bayley says top spots on the North Shore are car parks at Rosedale Park, Windsor Park and Hooten Reserve.

The back streets of Torbay are also a great place to learn how to give way and turn left and right after drivers have learned the basics, he says.

The AA suggests every student should have their first lessons with a professional driving instructor.

The council is looking for people with relatives buried in rows B, C and D of block A in section one of the cemetery's northern division.

The burials took place between 2001 and 2009 and the surnames are Lim, Oh, Ho, Allen, Howett and Kim.

Call 301 0101 or visit the North Shore Memorial Park cemetery office for more information.

North Shore Times