Motorists warned over distracting dangers of hands-free mobile kits after driver is convicted of death crash

judge has warned of the dangers of using hands-free mobile phone kits while driving, after a woman became distracted during a 20-minute "in depth" conversation and killed a motorcyclist coming in the opposite direction.

Samantha Ayres was still mid-conversation with a friend when her Ford Fiesta drifted on to the wrong side of the road and smashed head-on into devoted father, David Kirk, 26.

The 34-year-old claimed she had lost control when she hit a pothole or verge on the rural Lincolnshire road.

But a police investigation found no evidence to support her claim and detectives concluded she had probably become distracted by her hands-free call.

Ayres, who had denied causing death by dangerous driving, broke down in tears when the jury returned its guilty verdict after just an hour.

The judge said a prison sentence was inevitable, as he warned of the dangers of using perfectly legal hands-free kits while driving.

Judge John Pini QC said: "There has to be an immediate custodial sentence. The fact that using a phone (hands free) is lawful does not alter the fact it is an actual distraction. The guidelines make that clear."

Mr Kirk, who had a two-year-old daughter, suffered catastrophic injuries in the accident, and died at the scene. His widow, Katie, was in court to see Ayres convicted.

n a moving statement issued after the verdict, Mr Kirk's widow, Katie, a nursery worker, said: "That night changed my life and me. I learnt what a broken heart feels like and now understand when people talk about losing someone can cause physical pain.

"I couldn't go back to our house in Lincoln, it hurt too much to be there. We stayed with my grandma, she cared for Alyssa while I couldn't. I couldn't look at Alyssa, she looks so much like Dave, it hurt to see her, it still does.

"She doesn't understand what happened, she thinks her daddy went to work and hasn't come back. After two days she woke up and shouted, 'daddy.'

"She will have abandonment anxiety for years until she understands what happened and that her daddy was taken from us and that he would never have left her by choice.

"Alyssa now has to grow up without her father. She will always be the 'girl whose father is dead.'

"Alyssa has a lot of milestones to pass now without her daddy, things that every dad should be able to do with their daughter, first day at school, first day at ballet, learning to swim, going to school prom, graduation and walking her down the aisle at her wedding."

Phone records showed that Ayres, a former admin worker, had made four "hands free" voice calls during her journey home from work in Boston, Lincolnshire on November 7 last year.

The court heard she was having a lengthy "in-depth" conversation with male friend, Marc Lunn, in the lead up to the collision.

In a statement read to the jury Mr Lunn, who works for a car dealership in Derby, said "I was sat in my VW when at 17.34 my mobile phone rang.

"It was Sam. I could tell she was in a car. The conversation was a catch-up about our lives and our families but also about the potential purchase of a VW van.

"All of a sudden, there was no run-up or warning, there was an outburst from Sam of expletives, and the sound of the car going off the road, then silence."

Greg Purcell, prosecuting, told a jury at Lincoln Crown Court "At the point of the collision Samantha Ayres drove her Ford Fiesta on entirely the wrong side of the road.

"She hit David Kirk who was riding his motorcycle in the opposite direction. She hit him head-on. David Kirk was correctly positioned in the opposite lane."
Mr Purcell said accident investigators could find no potholes on the road and said there was no evidence that Ayres had even braked before the impact.

PC Godfrey Barlow told the jury use of a hands free phone can provide a distraction and was a "possible" cause of the collision.

When asked how the use of hands free phone differed from talking to a passenger PC Barlow said: "The research mentions you visualise the person you are speaking to. It is going to lower your situational awareness."

RAC road safety spokesman, Pete Williams, said: "Just because it is legal to use a phone hands-free does not mean it is always safe to do so.

"If a driver feels they will be distracted by talking, they need to take responsibility by deciding when and when not to speak, or to pull over to somewhere safe, switch the engine off and then have the conversation."

Originally publised here.