Death crash text driver jailed

A MOTORIST who sent and received more than 20 texts before she hit and killed another driver has been jailed.

Laurence Cawley

A MOTORIST who sent and received more than 20 texts before she hit and killed another driver has been jailed.

Phone records show that Philippa Curtis, 21, of The Street, Icklingham, near Bury St Edmunds, sent and received the messages before she ploughed into 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. Yesterday, at court, she was jailed for 21 months.

The sentence was last night criticised as “light” by accident prevention campaigners, who claimed she should have been jailed for longer given Curtis's “persistent texting”.

Curtis had been on her way to stay with her boyfriend in Oxford on November 20, 2007, when she collided with Miss McBryde's Peugeot 106 on the A40, near Wheatley.

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Miss McBryde, who had stopped to deal with a burst tyre, was pronounced dead from a brain injury after her car was forced off the road and on to a piece of concrete.

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.

The waitress, who said she had been “hyper” as she set off at 9pm, made various calls as she was driving and sent more than 20 text messages to a number of friends using predictive text on her flip-top phone.

As she arrived in Oxford, she made a quick call to her boyfriend which, she said, did not go through. She then dialled a taxi firm so she could arrange an onward journey from a park-and-ride.

But shortly after making the call she collided with Miss McBryde, who was sitting in her car, waiting for assistance.

Curtis, who only suffered an arm injury, spun into oncoming traffic, hitting two more vehicles, a white van and an Asda lorry, the court was told.

In court she admitted sending text messages while driving but denied using her mobile phone at the time of the collision.

Giving evidence, the 21-year-old 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, who denied the charge of causing death by dangerous driving, 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.”

A spokeswoman for the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) said: “That does seem to be a light sentence given the persistent texting. The sentencing guidelines were recently strengthened for those who text or call persistently on their mobile telephones. We urge all motorists to switch their telephones off when driving.”

Curtis was also disqualified from driving for three years.