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Kill the Conversation, Not an Innocent Person - Laura Reaney, Spencers Solicitors

04/11/16. This is one subject that I can honestly say makes me feel very angry. I drive on our roads everyday and have done for many years now. Each time I do, I see at least one driver using a mobile phone whilst behind the wheel. Over the years, this practice has increased dramatically, probably due to the fact we now use our mobile phones much more than we ever used to, in particular for the internet and social media. This is despite the introduction of criminal sanctions for those caught doing it.

Everywhere you look nowadays people have a mobile phone practically glued to their hand. Using a mobile phone whilst driving a motor vehicle is a lethal, high risk combination with potentially tragic and life changing consequences. I wouldn’t even consider doing it because to me it’s common sense, so why do others continue to ignore the dangers and put people’s lives at risk?

There has been so much in the press recently about innocent people becoming victims of mobile phone users behind the wheel. Why do these people never learn? Why do they not stop for a moment and realise how much of a distraction their mobile phone is and how much of a risk they are taking when using it whilst driving.

I am sure it makes many people angry, but despite all the publicity showing us the number of serious or fatal accidents that occur due to the use of a mobile phone whilst driving, people continue to do it.

Using a phone at the wheel increases the risk of a crash four fold.

Reaction times for drivers using a phone are around 50% slower than when driving normally.

Even careful drivers who are distracted by a phone call or text message can be affected because that split second lapse in concentration can be fatal. More and more accidents are happening on our roads due to drivers being distracted by their phones. As soon as a driver answers a call or looks at their phone to text or read a message their concentration is immediately affected.

Do you really want to live with the guilt of causing a serious or even fatal crash because of that split second decision to use your phone?

The advice given by the ‘Think’ campaign, run by the Department of Transport (www.think.direct.gov.uk), is:-

  • DON’T MAKE OR ANSWER CALLS OR TEXT WHILST DRIVING

  • PULL OVER SAFELY AND PARK UP BEFORE USING YOUR MOBILE

  • DON’T CALL OTHER PEOPLE IF YOU KNOW THEY’RE DRIVING



I recently read the article about the cyclist from Hampshire, Lee Martin, who was killed by a van driver using his mobile phone in 2015. I was even more shocked to read that the driver had been allowed to continue driving despite six previous convictions for using a phone at the wheel. I also read about the lorry driver who was distracted opening a text message and crashed into an off-duty police officer’s car in June 2014. Sadly the police officer was killed. The lorry driver was recently jailed for 6 years.

Why not wait until you have stopped driving before opening up a text message or answering a call? Is this just not common sense? That split second of distraction is enough to cause a serious accident or kill someone.

Also in the news this week was the tragic story of Tracy Houghton, her 2 sons and her partner’s daughter, who were all killed in August this year after being hit by a lorry driver using his phone. While sitting at home on Monday scrolling down my news feed on Facebook the article popped up. The lorry driver, Tomasz Kroker was sentenced to 10 years in prison for making the decision to use his mobile while driving and therefore turning his lorry into a “lethal weapon”. Within the article there was a police video clip showing footage from the dash-cam in Mr Kroker’s lorry. I knew if I pressed ‘play’ I would see something horrific. I kept hovering my finger over the screen debating whether or not to watch the clip and I decided I would. It made me feel very angry towards the lorry driver and also very sad and emotional when I thought about all the innocent people who had been involved in the accident, the ones who had sadly lost their lives and the affect this will have on their families forever.

Watching the footage was a real reminder of exactly why I want to raise more awareness about the serious consequences of using a mobile phone while driving. If you are guilty of doing this then I urge you to watch the clip because I can promise you won’t ever do it again.

Interestingly, there has been a recent announcement from the Government that drivers caught using phones will face double points and fines. Offenders will receive 6 points and face a fine of £200 as opposed to the current 3 points and a £100 fine. In my opinion this still isn’t a tough enough penalty to stop offenders and won’t deter them from continuing to use their phone behind the wheel. Personally I think the only way to try and make people realise the dangers is to put them on an immediate ban, just like you would a drink driver. At present almost half of drivers convicted of killing are not jailed at all and the average prison sentence is less than 4 years. I know following the survey carried out by ‘Brake’, the road safety charity (www.brake.org.uk) earlier this year the majority of people called for tougher prison sentencing.

These heartbreaking real life stories are a reminder for all road users that every single driver out there has a responsibility for their own actions when behind the wheel. Doing the job I do in our Serious Injury Department here at Spencers Solicitors, I have seen first-hand what devastating consequences using a mobile phone behind the wheel can have on someone’s life and their families.

‘Brake’ have a link on their website to sign a ‘Justice for Victims’ petition to strengthen sentencing for criminal drivers who kill or cause serious injuries. The more people who sign, the more chance there is of achieving positive change to the criminal driving laws and sentencing.

What are your thoughts on the current penalty for people being sentenced for this and what do you consider is the appropriate penalty?

Laura Reaney
Litigator
Spencers Solicitors

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