Tragic loss of family highlights dangers of using mobile phones at the wheel
A 30 year old lorry driver has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of the deaths of a mother and three children in a crash on the A34 while using his mobile phone.
A 30-year old lorry driver has been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment at Reading Crown Court today after being convicted of causing the deaths of a mother and three children in a crash on the A34 while he was using his mobile phone.
Tomasz Kroker, from Tarjan Walk, Andover, Hampshire, was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for each count of death by dangerous driving and four years’ imprisonment for causing serious injury by dangerous driving. All of the sentences will run concurrently. He was also disqualified from driving for seven years.
The tragedy occurred when Tomasz Kroker was scrolling through music on his mobile phone and failed to see a line of stationary traffic in front of him.
He ploughed into the back of a car driven by mother Tracey Houghton (45) carrying her two sons, Josh (11) and Ethan (13) and step-daughter, Aimee (11), who were on their way back from a family holiday in Devon.
Tragically, the family were killed instantly when the lorry hit their car at approximately 50mph. The accident was witnessed by Tracey’s partner, father of Aimee and Aimee’s brother who were travelling in a separate car. A further five people were injured in the collision.
The judge in the case said Kroker hadn’t been paying attention for around a kilometre and that his attention was so poor that he “might as well have had his eyes closed.”
The tragedy serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of using your mobile phone while driving. In the dash cam footage recording his every move up to the moment of the crash, flashing hazard lights ahead on one of the vehicles can clearly be seen while Kroker looks down at his mobile phone in his left hand. Only 0.75 seconds before the impact does he look up in horror, but it was too late for him to take any action to avoid the crash.
Brake, the road safety charity, is already calling for a full review of charging, sentencing and guidelines. The charity, which organises Road Safety Week (21-27 November) also wants to see hands-free calls banned and restrictions on the use of in-car-app enabling screens.
Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, the road safety charity, said: “There could be no more shocking example of why using a mobile phone behind the wheel is so dangerous. This was no ‘accident’ but four lives violently ended by a criminal driver who wasn’t looking at the road. A 10-year sentence, of which he will probably serve just five, doesn’t begin to do justice to the grieving families. We need action from the government now; prison sentences for criminal drivers who kill must be strengthened. We need increased penalties for illegal phone use behind the wheel and hands-free calls must also be banned. We also need more investment in road traffic policing, so drivers breaking mobile-phone laws know they will be caught and punished.”
In September 2016, the Government took a harder line against drivers using mobile phones, doubling the points on licenses from three to six and on-the-spot fines from £100 to £200. However, many campaigners believe these sanctions don’t go far enough.
In the run up to Road Safety Week, Brake is promoting its road safety pledge which urges drivers to promise to stop using their mobile phones at the wheel. Research shows that drivers who perform a complex secondary task, like using a mobile, are three times more likely to crash than non-distracted drivers.
The pledge asks drivers to never take or make calls or texts when driving and to put their phone out of sight and on silent and stay focused on the road. They also emphasise never chat on the phone to someone else who’s driving.
Yesterday, Thames Valley Police released a video it has produced with Tracey’s family to highlight the catastrophic consequences of using a mobile phone while driving. It is distressing and hard to watch but the message is clear – mobile phones are a lethal distraction which as this horrific case demonstrates, can lead to untold tragedy and suffering.
Find out more about Brake’s road safety pledge