Highway hero rewarded
A truck driver has been recognised as a highway hero after his ''amazing driving'' prevented a potentially serious crash last month.
Louis Maaka, of Lower Hutt, received the Beaurepaires Highway Heroes Award on Thursday for his skilful driving on October 29 near Otaihanga.
Mr Maaka said he was driving north on State Highway 1 at about 80 kilometres per hour, when a white ute stopped dead in front of him to let merging traffic through.
He slammed on his brakes and swerved his 15,000 kilogram, 14-wheeler truck between the stopped ute and other merging traffic, down a small grass driveway next to the road.
Police at the scene nominated him as an unofficial ''driver of the year'', and said he avoided a potentially serious accident.
''It's always a bit of a dodgy intersection, but I've never had someone stop in front of me before,'' Mr Maaka said. ''I just slammed the brakes, and then instinct took over.
''If I had ploughed into the ute, it would have been game over. They would have ended up under my wheels, and the truck could have rolled.''
Mr Maaka took up truck driving about five years ago, after showing a natural ability.
''I used to pack trucks, load them up. When they came into my yard, the guys couldn't back them out again, so I'd jump into the cab and back it out,
no problems,'' he said.
''They'd all say, 'cheers Louis, you should be a truck driver', so eventually I did.''
After the near miss he is more cautious on the Otaihanga bend of SH1.
Highway Heroes awards are nominated by a member of the public and open to any professional truck, bus or coach driver, who performs brave, heroic or humanitarian acts in the course of their work.
A Supreme Award will be decided by a panel of judges.