A motorist who knocked down and killed a seven-year-old boy while talking on her mobile phone was fined just £90 and given five points on her driving licence.
Road safety campaigners yesterday (thurs) branded the sentencing of Amy Asker an ‘insult’ to the family of schoolboy Seth Dixon.
He died from head injuries after he was hit by Ms Asker’s green Ford Mondeo as he crossed a road outside his home.
Ms Asker, 33, was fined £90 after admitting a charge of careless driving rather than the more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving when she appeared before magistrates.
She was also ordered to pay a £20 victims’ surcharge and £80 costs.
On Wednesday an inquest into Seth’s death heard that Ms Asker had been talking on the phone to a friend using its loud speaker when she hit Seth – known as Smiler.
Alice Bailey, campaigns adviser for road safety charity Brake, condemned the sentence handed to her.
She said:”The driver’s explanation and the subsequent fine and penalty points are an insult to the family.”
“This tragic story illustrates why driving when distracted can be deadly.
“We’re calling on the government to make all phone use in vehicles, illegal.
“Even when speaking on a hands free unit, your reaction times are 30% slower than if you were at the current drink-drive limit in England and Wales.
“Having a conversation with a passenger in a car is very different, they can perceive hazards and understand the road conditions and behave accordingly.”
Details of the case we revealed at an inquest held in Boston, Lincs.
It heard that Seth was crossing the road outside his home in Tydd Gote, Cambs., to post a letter when the tragedy occurred on December 5, 2014.
The coroner heard that Ms Asker claimed she hadn’t seen Seth and only became aware of him on impact.
The inquest heard that she was on the phone at the time – and a number of calls made on her phone had been deleted after the crash.
She claimed she had no idea how that calls had disappeared and said her mobile had been placed in the pocket of the driver’s door on loud speaker when the collision happened.
Asker, of King’s Lynne, Norfolk, was driving her car at around 27mph in a 30mph zone at the time.
Giving evidence to the coroner, she said: “I was driving at about 27mph.
“I did not see him. I could not do anything.”
“I had my side lights on as it was beginning to get dark.
“My phone was on speaker phone as I had no hands free in the car.
“I do not think my driving was impaired by being on the phone. It would have been no different to a passenger sat next to me talking.”
PC Mark Brown said the weather was fine and the road lit with street lights, adding: “Amy made and received seven calls while driving from her mum’s in Leverton.”
Coroner Paul Cooper recorded a narrative conclusion and said: “Amy Asker was charged with dangerous driving.
“If she was not using her phone she may have seen Seth earlier.
“I believe her using the phone while driving contributed to the child’s death.”
Speaking after the inquest Seth’s mother Alice Husband, 42, said she hoped her son’s death would come as a strong warning to drivers not to use their phones behind the wheel.
She said: “It doesn’t matter whether you think you’re concentrating properly, you’re not.
“If a phone call or message is important, pull over and take it, or wait until you get home.
“The chances are it’s not as important as you think.
“People need to realise it takes a split second for something like this to happen but it will stick with you for a lifetime.”
Asked whether she believes Ms Asker should have been handed a stronger sentence, she said: “She will be serving a sentence in her own mind for the rest of her life.
“No prison sentence would change that or make her feel any worse.
“All it would do is separate another mother from her children and those children should not be the ones to suffer.”
Mrs Husband said she had ‘forgiven’ Ms Asker for making an ‘innocent mistake.”
She said: “I don’t blame her (Asker) for what happened, It was an innocent mistake that led to tragic circumstances.
“She didn’t get in her car that day and mean for what happened to happen.
“It was devastating and it’s ruined her life as well as ours.
“But it won’t help anyone or anything to go around blaming her.
“I’ve forgiven her and I want to remember Seth for the smiley, happy, much loved little boy that he was.”
Alice, who is also mother to Oliver, 16, and Jake, 12, said Seth had crossed the road almost every day of his life.
She said: “He’d grown up in that house where the postbox was directly opposite.
“Of course I taught him the important of stopping, looking and listening but it was in the lead up to Christmas and he was excited.
“He popped out to post a letter for me, it was getting dark and he was small for his age so she (Asker) may not have seen him.
“I don’t believe she wouldn’t have done everything in her power to stop if she had have done.”
Seth was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, Cambs., following the collision but died as a result of head injuries two weeks later on December 19, 2014.
Alice added: “It was the worst day of my life and I will never forget my amazing son.
“He didn’t deserve to lose his life in such a tragic way.
“He was loved by everyone who met him, and nicknamed ‘Smiler’ because he always had a grin on his face.
“He was a classic little boy who loved building fires and getting dirty in the mud. He was kind and generous and loved his brothers.”
“Life will never be the same without him.”
The maximum sentence for careless driving, also known as driving without due care and attention, is a fine of up to £2,000.
The driver’s licence must also be endorsed with between 3 and 9 penalty points.
The maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving is 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.
The driver must also be disqualified from driving for at least two years and must then sit an extended retest.