Victims of drivers who caused serious crashes in Cumbria whilst distracted behind the wheel have spoken out as part of a national campaign.
The TISPOL (European Traffic Police Network) and National Police Chief’s Council campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of mobile phone driving runs from September 17th to September 23rd.
Claire Westgarth was driving on the A66 eastbound at Temple Sowerby in January of last year when the traffic came to a stand-still.
Claire watched helplessly through her rear-view mirror as the HGV travelling behind her failed to slow, smashing into the back of her own car.
Dash-cam footage from on board the HGV captured the collision, which left Claire with numerous injuries including a complete break of her upper arm and a laceration across the top of her head.
The driver had been distracted at the time of the collision, using his tachograph device whilst driving at speed and was given a suspended prison sentence at court.
Claire, of Temple Sowerby, said: “I think everyone gets distracted when they are driving. It’s so easy. But checking a mobile device or a tachograph is just a distraction too far.
“It’s unnecessary. There’s no reason you can’t pull over into a lay-by or service station to check the devices.
“It’s not worth risking other people’s lives on the road – both other road users and yourself. It just is not worth that risk.”
Paul Holroyd, along with his friend and colleague Adam Gibb, was responding to an incident on the M6 at Shap in February 2016 when a driver lost control of his car.
The two Highways Officers were on the hard shoulder when Peter Morrison lost control of his Mercedes and collided with them.
Adam Gibb was killed in the collision, whilst Paul Holroyd suffered a spinal injury which has left him paralysed from the waist down.
The driver was found to be speeding in poor weather conditions whilst sending a steady stream of messages from his phone. He was jailed for a total of nine years.
Paul said: “There are no winners in something like this. And all because he was texting and hurtling down the motorway.
“Nothing is that important that you can’t wait until you finish your journey and pull over somewhere safe because, in a split second, you could find yourself in the dock facing a long custodial sentence – and all the lives around you that you have ruined in just a split second.
“Nobody expects it will happen to them. I certainly didn’t. Nobody sees it coming but it’s all over in the blink of an eye, your life is changed. Just don’t do it.”
Inspector Steve Minnikin of Cumbria Police said: “Every day our officers are on the lookout for drivers who put their own lives and the lives of other road users at risk by using a mobile phone whilst driving.
“However, getting across to drivers what the consequences are is the real challenge which is why I would like to thank Claire and Paul for sharing their experiences.
“Their stories illustrate how allowing yourself to be distracted and lose concentration whilst in control of a vehicle can ruin lives.
“I would urge everyone to look at their own behaviour whilst behind the wheel. If you ever find yourself reaching for your phone then you need to take action. Put your phone in the safest possible place for your journey – inside the glove compartment.”
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Peter McCall said: “I too would like to thank Claire and Paul for helping us to raise awareness of this important issue. Driving whilst distracted can and does have devastating consequences – and not just for the driver but also for other innocent road users.
“The messages is simple – no text, call or any other in-car distraction can be so important so as to put lives at risk for – so just don’t do it.”