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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 February 2007, 15:58 GMT
'As dangerous as drink-driving'
By Nigel Pankhurst
BBC News

Drivers using hand-held mobile phones now face a maximum fine of 60 and up to three points added to their licence.

The families of two people killed in accidents involving motorists using phones speak of the devastation caused by the deaths.

Ellen Newman
Grandmother Ellen Newman was struck by a vehicle on a pavement

Ellen Newman was killed after she was hit by a car as she walked along the pavement in Manchester on a January morning last year.

The driver, widely believed to have been using a mobile phone at the time, was charged with driving without due care and attention, banned from driving for a year and fined 300.

Paul Newman, brother of the 46-year-old victim, has welcomed the introduction of tougher penalties - but wants to see much more done.

"Using a mobile phone while driving is just as dangerous as drink driving, but it's so difficult to prove. With drink driving you can do a test. It's difficult to prove the mobile phone was being used at the exact time of the accident."

I'm not against mobile phones. There are good points about mobile phones, but not in a car.
Paul Newman
Victim's brother

Mr Newman believes motor vehicles and mobile phones are simply not compatible.

"Driving a car is one of the most dangerous things you do every day, and what do people do? They put a major distraction - a mobile phone - in the car.

"I don't feel anything against these people. I understand why they do it. I don't attach too much blame on them. It's a modern technology that people use.

"I'm not against mobile phones. There are good points about mobile phones, but not in a car. It's all negative in a car."

He added: "With the seat belt law, in the main it's going to kill the person who hasn't got the seat belt on. With mobile phones it's other people who are going to be killed. I think if the people using mobile phones were going to get killed they would take it more seriously.

"Before this happened to my sister, it was just another story that didn't affect me. But now it's closer to home it opens your eyes."

The most devastating and far reaching effect is the fact my children are now left without their father
Widow of crash victim

The pain felt by the Newman family is not unique, as illustrated in a separate case in which a statement was given to court by the unnamed wife of a road crash victim.

The woman's 39-year-old husband was killed in the crash on the M1 in November 2001, when the driver of the other car was using his mobile phone.

The driver of the other vehicle was prosecuted for causing death by dangerous driving, sentenced to six years in prison and disqualified for 12 years.

Her husband was on life-support for 36 hours after the accident, before the machines keeping him alive were switched off.

She told the court: "The most devastating and far-reaching effect is the fact my children are now left without their father.

"He was completely devoted to them, playing with them, reading to them, bathing them, looking after them when they were ill, disciplining them when they were naughty, just being with them whenever he could outside work hours and ringing up to talk to them when he couldn't be there in person.

'Incredibly lonely'

"He had so much close involvement with them that for the first few weeks after he died my youngest son, who had only had his second birthday six days before his father's death, asked for his daddy inconsolably, over and over again, probably 300 times a day and now graduates to saying with a very serious voice 'Daddy died. Car crash. Broken. Hurt'.

She continued: "On my own I am incredibly lonely, having been married to my husband for almost 13 years and together with him for four years before that, a total of 17 years, which is almost half my life.

"We were not just husband and wife but genuinely best friends so I feel I am grieving twice over, for my lost husband and for my best friend and confidant."

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