real life

She called him as she drove, he heard a crash ... then silence

Sarah Durazza was on the phone to her boyfriend as she drove home on Monday night. One moment they were chatting, the next he heard a crashing sound followed by horrifying silence.

Knowing something was terribly wrong, he raced to a stretch of road on Sydney's northern beaches and found her car twisted around a tree. Sarah was dead inside. A heartbreaking call was made to her dad, Paul Durazza, who arrived to watch rescue workers cut his beautiful 26-year-old daughter from the wreckage.

Sarah is the latest victim of what has been labelled 'distracted driving'.

NSW Highway Patrol, Assistant Commissioner John Hartley has confirmed: "We believe she was talking to her boyfriend at the time. He told police officers at the scene that he heard the crash over the phone and attended the scene straight away."

Sarah with her mother Fiona
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Her brother Peter, 23, said he and his family were struggling to come to terms with his big sister's death. "She had a big heart - a great heart - and was always happy. She lived life to the full - she really enjoyed life - but she took nothing for granted."

Her brother Rob has thanked people on his Facebook page for all the support the family has received since his sister's death. "Thank you all so much it's going be a tuff few days but the support from all of you will make this easier."

Road deaths resulting from phone use while driving is a major concern. Parents are being urged to teach their teens not only how to drive, but how to stay focused on the road.

Research has shown that drivers who use mobile phones while driving have the response time of a drunk driver and the effect is even worse for young, inexperience drivers.  Police have reported incidents of pulling over suspected drunk drivers for swerving across the road only to find they'd been on their mobile phone. Alice Springs Sergeant Conan Robertson told NT News the practice was dangerous and needed to stop. "There have been many occasions where police have followed an apparent drunk driver who is swerving over the road, bumping into curbs. Then we pull them over and find they've been texting on their phones."

"There have also been occasions where people have driven into parked cars or fixed objects while using their mobile phones whilst driving. Drivers need to be aware of the road conditions and other traffic at all times and using a mobile phone is a major distraction."

According to themotorreport.com.au, mobile phone use while driving affects drivers in the following ways:

  • reaction time
  • visual search patterns
  • ability to maintain speed and position on the road
  • ability to judge safe gaps in the traffic
  • general awareness of other road users.

The most common types of crashes associated with mobile usage are running off the road and rear-end accidents.

Using a hands-free kit doesn't solve problem. New research by Queenslands insurer RACQ has found, “The fact is that mobile phone use reduces reaction time by 35 percent, effectively making you a drunk driver, even when using a hands-free kit."

Phones need to be placed on the back seat of the car out of reach. The old rule of pulling over to make a phone call needs to be stressed to our children.

If you're pulled over for using a mobile phone in Australia the penalty is as follows:

  • In New South Wales the penalty is $253 and 3 points
  • In Queensland the penalty is $300 and 3 points
  • In South Australia the penalty is a fine and 3 points
  • In Victoria the penalty is $239 and 3 points
  • In Western Australia the penalty is $250 and 3 points

If that's not enough to convince your teen that using a mobile phone while driving is dangerous, then show them stories like this.

What would you do if you discovered your teen using their phone while driving?

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