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October 16, 2019
The driver who hit and killed pro cyclist Jason Lowndes in 2017 looks set to avoid jail time after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing death.
Billie Rodda, now 22, hit Lowndes from behind on December 22, 2017 while driving in Mandurang, near Bendigo. Earlier this year Rodda was accused of sending seven text messages and receiving 10 in a conversation with her boyfriend while driving that morning. She reportedly struck Lowndes 68 seconds after unsuccessfully trying to send a further message.
Rodda told police that she was driving at between 80 and 100 kph when she rounded a bend and saw Lowndes in her peripheral vision — she was looking at her speedometer at the time. She says that by the time she saw Lowndes, she didn’t have time to react.
Rodda had initially pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing death, careless driving, and using a mobile phone while driving. This week both the prosecution and defence accepted that Rodda was not using her phone at the time of the crash.
In pushing for a jail term, prosecutors told the County Court in Bendigo that Rodda should have seen Lowndes, that she knew cyclists used the road she was driving on, and that her inattention behind the wheel was a contributing cause to the rider’s death. The defence, meanwhile, indicated that Lowndes had been wearing dark clothing and headphones at the time of the incident, and that he was riding nearly 1.5 metres from the edge of the lane.
Judge Wendy Wilmoth ruled that a jail term wouldn’t be necessary for Rodda, instead ordering the 22-year-old to be assessed for a community corrections order.
Rodda will appear before the County Court this Friday for a plea hearing and will be sentenced at a later date.
Lowndes raced with Drapac Professional Cycling in 2016 before joining the Israel Cycling Academy in 2017. He was set to join JLT-Condor for the 2018 season.