Mulwala mother Vicki Richardson says new legislation targeting driver distractions would make her daughter Brooke proud.By Racheal Willett
“This is my way of saying to the world, I had this beautiful daughter and because of one mistake she’s gone. If one young driver goes to pick up their phone, sees Brooke’s face and stops, then I’ve done my job. I’ve made her proud.”
Mulwala mother Vicki Richardson admits the first time she saw a new TAC advertising campaign warning drivers about deadly distractions, it took her breath away.
“I think if it had been a girl driving, it would have been too hard,” she said. “It was a little easier because the driver was male but still it was hard to watch. The ads are meant to be shocking, that’s how they work, and I hope it has the same effect on everyone else.”
Vicki and her family still count in weeks since Brooke Richardson, 20, was killed in a car accident near Yarrawonga on December 4 last year.
Sadly, Brooke’s mobile phone showed she had been texting moments before her car ran off the road and hit a tree.
Since her death, the Richardson family and the Yarrawonga, Mulwala and Corowa communities have united in grief to warn others about the fatal consequences of texting and driving.
The Victorian Government and the Transport Accident Commission have launched a campaign introducing tougher penalties, new technology and a confronting series of advertisements in a bid to reduce the number of distracted road users.
New legislation will also be introduced extending the ban on mobile phone use, including hands free sets, from just the first year of a probationary period to the entire three-year period. Fines for using a mobile phone while driving are also set to be increased from $282 to more than $400.
Vicki hopes the legislation will be called “Brooke’s Law”.
“Speaking at the campaign launch was difficult, I had a quiver in my voice, but I knew I had to get through it,” Vicki said. “None of this has been easy since we lost Brooke and I still have bad days but I think she’s part of it all, pushing me on, making sure I keep going because we’ve got a job to do.
“One of the hardest things is remembering that 12 months before Brooke died we spoke to her about texting and driving,” Vicki said. “We said, ‘don’t ever do that’ and hoped she’d listen but like all young people she thought nothing bad could happen to her. All of us are guilty of being too attached to our phones but Brooke’s death is a message that no text or no phone call is worth losing your life.”
Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said tougher measures to combat driver distractions had been strongly supported by all Victorians.
“Victoria has led the world with our campaigns on drink-driving, drugs and speeding but little has been done to educate drivers on the dangers of being distracted while driving,” he said. “Phone calls, text messages, music and GPS devices combined to make it more challenging to concentrate behind the wheel. It’s important all road users understand how quickly inattention can end in disaster.”
A “Road Mode” smart phone app is also being developed which, when enabled, will put a mobile phone on silent and send a text message to anyone who tries to call or text that mobile, telling them the person is driving and will respond when it is safe to do so.
The app is currently available for Android phone users and it is hoped it will soon be available for Apple devices.
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