Death driver: I can't describe how bad I feel

Driver who caused fatal crash while sending text messages at 70mph is sent to prison for 21 months
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The Independent Online

A woman who sent and received more than 20 texts before she hit and killed another motorist has been jailed for 21 months.

Phone records show that Philippa Curtis, 21, of Icklingham, near Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk, sent and received the messages before she hit the back of a stationary car at 70mph, killing its driver. She was found guilty of causing the death by dangerous driving of Victoria McBryde, 24, of Horton, Northamptonshire, following a trial at Oxford Crown Court in December.

Curtis had been on her way to stay with her boyfriend in Oxford on 20 November 2007, when her car collided with Ms McBryde's car on the A40, near Wheatley, sending it flying into a concrete verge.

Ms McBryde, who had stopped and was waiting for help to deal with a puncture, died from brain injuries.

Curtis, who was not wearing any shoes at the time of the crash, escaped with an arm injury after her car spun into oncoming traffic, collided with a white van and crashed into the back of a lorry.

The court heard that Curtis made the two-hour journey to Oxford on a dark evening when the roads were wet and after a day's work at a restaurant in Suffolk. As she approached Oxford, she phoned her boyfriend, but could not get through. She then called a taxi firm so she could arrange an onward journey from a park-and-ride. But shortly after making the call she collided with Ms McBryde's car.

In court she admitted sending text messages while driving but denied using her mobile phone at the time of the collision. Giving evidence, she said she had felt there were times when using a phone while driving was acceptable and said she could send and receive messages without taking her eyes off the road.

Curtis said she felt "awful" for causing the death of another young woman. "I can't really describe in words how bad I actually feel," she told the court. "I just feel awful that I was involved and I can't really imagine how the family must feel."

Curtis was also disqualified from driving for three years.

Speaking after the hearing, Ms McBryde's mother, Jennifer Ford, said: "Tori was horribly killed by Philippa Curtis because she chose to use her phone while driving in the pitch black. Tori was my shining star and both totally beautiful and my best friend. I've been left with a black hole in my heart which will never be filled. My sentence is a lifelong one until I meet her again."

Road safety experts described Curtis's jail sentence as "light" in view of the persistent texting and calls she made on her mobile phone leading up to the fatality. Jo Stagg, for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: "This is a tragic case and goes to show that some people treat their calls and texts as more important than the lives of those around them on the road."

In 2007, 25 deaths were caused by people talking on their mobile phones while driving. "Sentencing guidelines were recently strengthened to encourage the courts to be stricter on this type of deliberate and persistent dangerous driving, but in our view this sentence is light," added Ms Stagg.