The risks to road users caused by distracted driving have been tragically highlighted in a recent case reported in the media. In this case, a lorry driver has received a prison sentence for killing a woman and three children when he crashed into their car because he was looking at his mobile phone.
The man had been scrolling through music on his phone when his lorry smashed into a stationary car on the A34. The judge in the case said the lorry driver hadn't been paying attention for around a kilometre and that his attention was so poor he "might as well have had his eyes closed."
The case has prompted road safety charity Brake to renew its calls for a full review of charging, sentencing and guidelines for these types of cases. It also wants to see hands-free calls banned and restrictions on the use of in-car-app enabling screens.
The charity highlights that deaths and serious injuries on the roads cause terrible suffering every day. Families often suffer three times over: a loved one dies or endures appalling injuries; the offender gets away with a pitiful penalty; and shattered victims fail to get the help and support they need.
Brake claims that support for road-crash victims is a grossly under-funded area. When someone dies in a crash, their loved ones are often left to struggle through their loss alone. It has called on the Government to invest in specialist support, offering prompt and comprehensive help to families when the worst has happened.
Trying to prevent incidents like this from happening again is one of the reasons why Brake launched its Roads to Justice campaign, which calls for tougher charges and penalties that reflect the suffering caused; investment in road-traffic policing; and for Government-funded support for road crash victims whose loved ones have been violently killed or have suffered life-changing injuries.
"There could be no more shocking example of why using a mobile phone behind the wheel is so dangerous,” commented Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake. “This was no ‘accident’ but four lives violently ended by a criminal driver who wasn't looking at the road.”
RAC Foundation has also responded to the sentencing of the lorry driver for causing death by dangerous driving.
“We know texting whilst driving impairs reaction times more than being at the legal drink-drive limit,” said Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation. “People are increasingly being distracted by the devices they carry with them into the driving seat and also the technology that is built into the car, but it almost defies belief that this case involved a professional driver.”
“We have argued that now could be the time for a drive-safe mode on phones to try and limit access to distractions but ultimately this is about personal responsibility,” he added. “Last year 61 fatal accidents had in-vehicle distraction as a contributory factor and that is likely to be an underestimate.”
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