Grieving mother: Stop these killer drivers on phones
The sight of a driver using a mobile phone is 'like a knife twisting in my stomach'.
These are the words of a grieving mother whose daughter was killed when a lorry driver browsing the internet on his mobile ploughed into her broken-down car.
Lisa Thomas, of Staffordshire, is now leading a police crackdown on others who use their phones at the wheel. The campaign is launched as drivers using their mobile phones is predicted to become the biggest cause of deaths on the road by 2015.
It was in July last year that 20-year-old Laura Thomas and boyfriend Lewis Pagett, 19, were struck by their own vehicle after an HGV crashed into it, sending it flying over the safety barrier to where the pair stood waiting for help. Miss Thomas was killed and Mr Pagett was seriously injured.
Lorry driver Ian Glover, aged 44, from Birmingham, who was browsing explicit dating websites at the time, was jailed for five years. For the Thomas family, the punishment is never-ending.
Mrs Thomas, an assistant at a doctors' surgery, said: "It's constantly on your mind. We were really, really close. I miss her all the time."
The couple had broken down on the A5 between Telford and Shrewsbury on their way to Wales for a caravan holiday when an engine sensor failed.
"It was something you couldn't have anticipated. Laura was meticulous, everything would have been checked and double-checked before they went," said her mother.
"If you'd asked me when the safest time to travel would have been, I'd probably have said 7am on Sunday which was the time they left. When they broke down, they stepped safely over the barrier out of the way of danger. She did everything right, and yet she still had her life snatched away from her."
Mrs Thomas was on holiday in Lanzarote with her sister and younger daughter Gemma when tragedy struck. Gemma had tried to persuade her sister to go with them but she did not want miss time off from her job as a teaching assistant at Marshlands Special School in Stafford. Laura's father David was alerted by a neighbour that the police had been trying to get hold of him and spent an agonising 30 minutes not knowing why, all the while desperately trying to get hold of her.
It had been 10 days since Mrs Thomas had last seen her daughter. Fighting back tears, she said: "That's the worst thing. I wish I'd never gone away.
"The point I want to get across is that it's normal, hard-working people who use their phones at the wheel.They don't go out with the intention of killing someone but that's what could happen. Awareness needs to be raised of the distraction that a phone can cause.
"For me, every single time I see someone on their phone it is a knife twisting in my stomach and a pounding in my chest. I can assure you every one of us has said 'you never think it'll happen to you' but it could. Please, please stop yourself and ask the question, 'do I need to answer that? Do I need to make that call now or can it wait?'"
Mrs Thomas, of Hunters Close, Great Haywood, has given her full backing to a two-week campaign across the region starting on Friday, which will see police launch dedicated patrols on the look-out for drivers on their mobiles.
She said: "Laura was a beautiful caring lady and I could not have been more proud of her. To wake each morning with the sickness to the stomach is relentless, the emptiness and constantly missing her, wishing that none of this had happened. There is a huge ripple effect to everyone concerned. Even the person who caused the collision, who perhaps has never committed a crime in their life but ended up in prison. Their whole life will change, all for the sake of using a phone behind the wheel."
Insp Sion Hathaway, of Central Motorway Police, said 17 people died as a result of drivers using mobile phones in 2012 and it is predicted to be the biggest killer by next year. He said: "It's scary. We're not just talking about making phone calls – texting, using social media and watching TV on your phone all dramatically increase the likelihood of being involved in a collision."
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