AN accident which led to the deaths of two Warrnambool girls in July 2004 will feature on television program 60 Minutes tomorrow night outlining the dangers of text messaging while driving.
Former south-west police officer Wayne Oakes, who retired after 35 years in the job this year, will feature on the program.
Mr Oakes said he only found out on Thursday the story would air this weekend.
“Within a week of me finishing up I got a call from police media saying a producer from 60 Minutes wants to have a talk about the dangers of texting and driving,” he said.
“Apparently American research has found that text messaging is 23 times more dangerous than drink-driving. 60 Minutes has done a study on fatal accidents for the past 10 years, concentrating on accidents involving text messaging.”
In July 2004, Marcus Stephen Johnstone, then 22, was driving an overcrowded car at 100km/h on a bend when he lost control near Cobden and crashed into a power pole. He’d been trying to delete a text message.
He was found guilty of culpable driving causing the deaths of Stephanie McCoy-Brassington, 13, and Emily Compton, 14, and of negligently causing serious injury to Jessica McCosh, 15.
Of the seven people in the car, some were in the back playing around, a mobile phone was passed to Johnstone and he took his eyes off the road several times to read a long message before he crashed.
Johnstone was originally imprisoned for 54 months, with a non-parole term of 27 months. But the prosecution appealed, claiming that the sentence was manifestly inadequate and in the end he received a term of almost seven years with a minimum 39 months in jail.
Mr Oakes said the Marcus Johnstone case was a classic example of a texting tragedy.
“He was just looking down at his phone, crashed and two young girls were killed,” he said.
“60 Minutes was going to interview Marcus Johnstone and one of the parents. The accident scene was horrific. It was just chaos, there were people all over the road and young people screaming.”
Mr Oakes said text messaging also caused some confusion at the accident scene with some parents originally told their children were all right, only to find out later they were deceased and other parents told their kids had died only to find they were OK.
“Driving and text messaging is just plain bloody stupid — it’s just insane,” he said.
“And girls seem to be the worst. They just can’t leave their phones alone. It’s one of the most dangerous things to have come in and it’s just so unnecessary. It can just lead to hideous and life-long consequences,” he said.