Driver allegedly distracted by TXT slams into RBT station
A YOUNG policeman has lost his foot and calf after being run over by a driver allegedly distracted by his phone, prompting a furious Police Commissioner to back The Sunday Telegraph's campaign for texting motorists to lose their licences.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian last night said she was open to toughening the law on mobile use - a habit Commissioner Mick Fuller slammed as a "cultural problem" with reckless motorists.
More than 50,000 drivers every year are busted for texting or calling with a maximum penalty of $330 and four demerit points, despite the fact mobile phone use was a factor in at least 236 crashes and seven fatalities between 2010 and 2014, according to the Centre for Road Safety.
Accused driver Jakob Thornton, 22, already had four licence suspensions when he careered his Fiat van at 60km/h into two experienced highway patrol officers at an RBT in Leumeah on Friday night, allegedly while looking at his phone.
Senior Constable Jonathon Wright's leg was crushed by the impact and colleagues had to apply a tourniquet to save his life.
His foot, and 15cm up his leg, was amputated during emergency surgery at Liverpool Hospital.
Family have been told Mr Wright may need more of his leg amputated.
Senior Constable Matthew Foley suffered a fractured leg.
Thornton had also been caught using his phone while driving in 2016, according to court documents.
Mr Fuller said: "How many lives need to be ruined before drivers wake up to themselves? Getting a call about one of your officers being injured is the worst part of my job and nothing can prepare you for it, time and time again," he said.
"We almost lost a police officer due to another driver's reckless behaviour.
"There is a cultural problem in this state, where drivers think it's more important to text and drive before considering the potentially life- threatening consequences," Mr Fuller said.
"As Commissioner, it is my role to protect life, so I am open to any solution that will discourage drivers from touching their mobile phones behind the wheel."
Thornton allegedly told police he had been driving at 60kmh and looking at his phone for 10 to 20 seconds.
He was yesterday refused bail on charges including dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm and negligent driving.
Ms Berejiklian, who last week announced a trial of camera technology to catch texting drivers, said: "It is never OK to use your mobile phone while driving. This incident is the latest reminder that it can have tragic consequences," she said.
"We have recently introduced tough new road safety measures, such as laws targeting mobile phone usage, but if there is more we can do to make our roads safer, then we will do it."
It is understood senior NSW police have canvassed at a national level the idea of increasing penalties for motorists who use their mobile phones. These penalties could include licence disqualification, suspension or bringing the penalty into line with drink driving offences.
Drivers caught with alcohol in their bloodstream incur immediate licence suspensions, except for low- range offences. A court can then disqualify motorists charged with mid- or high- range drink driving offences for as long as they see fit.
NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley echoed the call for tougher penalties.
"I think we need to do even more in the area of public education and we need tougher sanctions," he said.
GOFUNDME PAGE SET UP FOR INJURED POLICEMAN
A crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the family of injured policeman "Jono" had more than doubled its $10,000 target within the first two hours.
Family friend Amber Neilson, who started the GoFundMe page, wrote the campaign was designed to "help ease (the family's) financial stresses so they can focus on what's important: Jono's recovery".
"He was just a bloke going to work, supporting his family and protecting his community," Ms Nielson wrote.
"Lisa and Jono have a long and arduous road ahead of them. We all feel helpless and just want to support this beautiful family."