DEADLY CHOICE: ‘It was one of the worst days of my life’
THE lifeless body of a young woman is pulled from the mangled wreck of a car destroyed in a head-on highway collision somewhere in the Mackay district.
Police find a half-finished message on her mobile phone.
She had been driving to work when she received the text and made the deadly choice to reply.
Dashcam footage showed her vehicle drift into the wrong lane and into the path of a fully laden truck.
The truck driver tried to take evasive action but there was no road shoulder on that section of the highway, so he couldn't pull off.
"He basically just had to wait for the impact," Sergeant Simon Robinson said.
The young woman was killed instantly when her car wedged under the truck. The damage, in general, was horrific.
The Mackay Road Policing Unit officer said it could have been worse.
"Luckily he was able to keep the truck on the road after impact because there were other vehicles on the road as well," Sgt Robinson said.
"It could have turned into multiple fatalities.
"The way she wandered across the road, it was clearly distraction.
"When we got to the car and located her phone, she was halfway through a message."
Sgt Robinson said the woman had received a text about one minute before the crash.
So far this year Mackay district police have fined 690 people for using their mobile phones while driving.
With police fining more than two people each day, on average, Sgt Robinson said he was frustrated.
"The message isn't getting across to people," he said.
"And for all emergency crews who attend fatal crashes, it's a bit more of yourself taken away each time."
Sgt Robinson can still remember the first time he had to tell a family their loved one had been killed in a crash.
"It was one of the worst days of my life," he said.
"We're all normal people … it does take its toll."
From February 1 next year the penalty for illegally using a mobile phone while driving will increase from a $400 fine and three points to a $1000 fine and four demerit points in a bid to deter people from this dangerous behaviour.
Cyclist will also be fined $1000 but no demerit points will be issued.
"Just don't look at your bloody phone," Sgt Robinson said. "If it's that urgent pull over and check your messages in a safe environment."
Driver distraction a leading cause of fatal crashes
A DAILY Mercury employee spent an hour at a busy Mackay intersection to see how many distracted drivers he could spot.
From 8.30am he sat at the corner of Milton and Gordon streets because it is one of the main thoroughfares into the city each morning.
In that time he observed a number of drivers drinking coffee and one driver who had both earphones in.
Although he did not see anyone using their phone, he thought there were a couple of drivers who appeared to be looking at something on their lap.
Distraction is one of the leading causes of fatal and injury crashes and accounts for about one quarter of all traffic incidents. Young drivers aged 18 to 25 years are twice as likely to make a phone call and four times more likely to text.
Also, 12 per cent have admitted to updating Facebook while driving and 14 per cent have admitted to taking a selfie and uploading it while driving.
Talking to a passenger is less distracting than talking on a mobile phone."