Crash victim calls for end to phone madness

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On a bright sunny evening in August, 2010, two cars were driving on the A6 near Souldrop.

One was carrying a 60-year-old woman and the other three friends, all aged 20 and 21.

The 60-year-old was talking on her mobile phone and her lack of attention caused a serious crash that left one of the young people with a brain injury.

Two years on, 21-year-old Lorna Foley has only just finished treatment for her injuries.

Lorna, of High Street South, Rushden, was a passenger in her boyfriend’s car when they were hit by the woman talking on her phone. She had gone to pull across the road into a petrol station and smashed into their car on Lorna’s side.

Lorna said: “She just ended up driving into us.

“I don’t have any memories of the crash at all. I was unconscious for about five minutes and I came round while I was still in the car.

“There are a lot of memories that have been wiped out. The next thing I remember is coming round in the hospital.

“I had a six-inch laceration on my forehead and that caused a brain injury. I also had a laceration to my arm, a fractured vertebrae in my spine and I smashed my foot.

“I have only just been discharged from physiotherapy this week. They are keeping an eye on me but hopefully I should be OK.”

Lorna was in court to see the woman, who was not injured in the crash, convicted of dangerous driving. Because of her age, she was given a nine-month suspended sentence, though Lorna thinks she should have gone to jail.

The woman was also given a driving ban for 18 months.

Lorna said: “I do drive now but I am very aware of safety and I feel safer when I am driving rather than as a passenger.

“I was at college at the time – two years into a three-year course – and I had to take three months off. I went on to a reduced timetable but I’ve finished the course now.

“I still don’t work full-time but I am hoping that will change.

“It makes me very angry to see people on their mobile while they’re driving, I see it all the time and it’s very hard.

“It has been a nightmare. It is the worst thing that I have ever been through.”

Lorna is backing a campaign by the road safety charity Brake urging drivers to put their phones out of sight while driving.

The charity says even using your phone hands-free can be a distraction and therefore increase reaction times.

Almost half of drivers admit to chatting on a phone while driving and two-thirds of them use a hand-held phone.

One quarter of people talk on their phone at the wheel at least once a week.

A horrifying 44 per cent of young drivers also admit to texting at the wheel and 21 per cent email, go online or use phone apps.

Brake is calling for a ban on the use of hands-free phones while driving and wants to see road safety made a compulsory part of the national curriculum in schools.

It is also calling for a change to the law so any driver caught using a phone will face a minimum 12-month driving ban.

Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: “Use a phone while driving and you are taking a horrendous risk with your own life and the lives of others.

“Many drivers who wouldn’t dream of drink-driving are using phones while driving, oblivious to the fact that the effect on your reaction times can be similar.

“We’re urging people to drive smart, recognising that phone use at the wheel can and does destroy lives, and no call or text is ever that important.

“If you need to use your phone urgently, pull over somewhere safe first: it’s as simple as that. We are also calling on the government to do more to tackle phone use at the wheel, including banning hands-free phones and bringing in far stiffer penalties.”