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'Fatal text' driver jailed for two years

Sent SMS just before crash

A Pontypool sales executive who killed another driver in a head-on collision, just two minutes after sending a text message, has been jailed for two years.

Michael Smith, 43, was found guilty last November of causing death by dangerous driving, but "denied using his mobile before the crash", the BBC reports. The accident happened when Smith was overtaking in his Land Rover Discovery on the A492 near Usk, Monmouthshire, in October 2005. He collided with a Vauxhall Corsa coming in the opposite direction, killing 53-year-old David Brown.

Cardiff Crown court heard that Smith would have needed "at least 176 metres of open road to overtake safely, but there was less than 63 metres".

The prosecution claimed that two minutes prior to the accident, Smith had sent a 19-word text to his stepdaughter, and had then received a reply just as the incident occurred. Smith "was arrested and admitted making illegal calls and texts from his hand-held mobile".

Prosecutor Martin Kelly told the court: "Smith was using his mobile phone on his journey that morning. He sent the long text message barely two minutes before the tragic fatal crash. His stepdaughter replied to the message at the very moment the fatal collision took place."

Defence council Susan Ferrier explained that: "Smith's wife was expecting their second child and he was already father to a toddler and step-father to the daughter of his previous partner who had died 'in tragic circumstances' just days before the crash."

Ferrier noted Smith had been "a rock" to his step-daughter since her mother's demise.

She said Smith was "genuinely remorseful" for causing Mr Brown's death, adding: "He has, in fact, sentenced himself in many ways, living with the horrors of what happened as a result of his driving and the guilt he feels as a result of causing the loss of someone's life."

Judge Phillip Richards sentenced Smith to two years' jail and disqualified him for four years. He told the defendant: "Your driving fell far below what would be expected of a careful and considerate driver."

He also concluded Smith had "decided to overtake when you needed much more road than you had, a fact compounded by your sending messages on your mobile phone prior to the accident. It had the result of killing a wholly innocent member of the public who was driving correctly on his side of the road".

The judge warned: "All drivers must realise that this kind of behaviour will end up in a prison sentence. The law requires drivers to be calm, considerate and patient to other road users. You displayed none of these qualities." ®

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