SPECIAL REPORT: The mother of a text-driving victim pleads to other drivers reports PETER COLLINS
BROOKE Richardson would have celebrated her 22nd birthday this month if she had not been fiddling with her mobile phone while driving.
She had just sent a text to a client about a hairdressing appointment before the phone slipped to the floor.
As she bent down to pick it up her car swerved to the wrong side of the road and hit a tree head-on near Cobram.
Brooke died from head injuries sustained in the crash.
The anguish of her death in December 2012 still hurts her family and friends, but it has given them reason to urge other drivers not to make the same mistake.
Brooke’s mother Vicki established a foundation and website to bring the message to young people and regularly speaks to school and community groups about road safety and how distractions can be fatal.
She contacted The Standard this week in response to our stories about a court case in which a 21-year-old Port Fairy woman was fined $4500 and lost her licence for nine months after her car hit a cyclist near Koroit in September.
The story has been picked up by news agencies around the world and generated an overwhelming response on social media.
The court heard the driver had used her mobile phone 44 times while driving from Warrnambool to Koroit before the collision and then told police she was upset the cyclist hit the side of her car. Her last text came 15 seconds before she dialled triple-0 to emergency services.
The rider received spinal injuries, but fortunately recovered sufficiently to return to work.
Ms Richardson told The Standard she was in “total shock” after reading the stories.
“I cannot believe anyone could have such blatant disregard for another human’s well-being,” she said.
“Sadly, I have been touched by the horrific outcomes of texting and driving.
“I believe that while people are getting away with texting and driving and nothing bad has happened they feel it is a safe practice, but it only takes that one time where it all goes wrong and tragedy can happen.
“My goal is to try and stop other families having to go through the same heartache our family had to go through.”
When police searched the wreckage of Brooke’s car they found her phone open at the last message she had sent.
Ironically her mother had spoken to her 12 months earlier of her concerns about using the phone while driving.
Ms Richardson is keen to contact the Port Fairy driver to check on her welfare and suggest she view a YouTube tribute the family has compiled about Brooke.
“We all make mistakes and I hope she learns from all this,” Ms Richardson said.
“As soon as people get behind the wheel their phone should be out of reach. I put mine on the back seat.
“You can text 100 times and get away with it, but there’s one time when you don’t — that could be fatal.
“Some people complain about the fine and demerit point loss, but if that saves lives it’s a good thing.
“I’d pay anything to get Brooke back.
“She was a fun-loving young woman who went out of her way to help people.
“We believe the foundation is giving some reason to her death in getting the message out.”
The foundation website is dont-txt-n-drive.com