An elderly woman in her 70s who nearly killed a mother and three children when her car swerved into the wrong lane of a major highway and crashed into them has been slammed by a South West Magistrate before avoiding jail time. Ellen Mary Lonnie, 78, was driving on Bussell Highway, about 1km from Capel, four years ago when she smashed into Helga van Schoor’s vehicle in what the court heard was an “inexplicable gross lapse of attention”. Ms van Schoor was travelling to Mandurah from Busselton with her three children, when the incident occurred and was left with a fractured pelvis and broken ribs. Her 15-year-old daughter also suffered a fractured neck, broken sacrum and nerve damage, while her son, 13, broke his neck and ruptured his small intestine. Her four-year-old daughter was lucky to escape with just seatbelt injuries. The family worked with Vasse MLA Libby Mettam to push for funding for another lane to each side of the 17km stretch of highway, which was two years ruled WA’s “riskiest” regional road by the RAC. Lonnie, who was 74 at the time and was also said to be lucky to survive the incident, was handed a suspended jail sentence of 18 months in Busselton Magistrate’s Court earlier this month and was disqualified from driving for three years. In sentencing on February 11, Magistrate Dianne Scaddan told Lonnie the crash was a “gross” example of somebody who was inattentive to the conditions of the road. “The consequences of that gross lack of attention and inherently dangerous driving was that three people who were entirely blameless and entirely innocent in all of this were seriously injured,” she said. “The fact that you’re 78 years old does not mean that you should not go to jail. “It would not be (in) the public interest and the interests more broadly would not necessarily be served in your serving a term of imprisonment immediately.” Magistrate Scaddan said although she accepted there was no maliciousness involved, Lonnie had failed to show any remorse in court. “I have some reticence in accepting how much remorse in fact has been expressed,” she said. “I certainly didn’t observe anything that would resemble remorse, even on the basis of you changing the evidence in the witness box.” Magistrate Scaddan said Lonnie had no prior convictions, had been a conscientious member of the community and was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash. Work to add extra lanes to the highway is due to be completed by 2023.