Pedestrian killed while driver looks at Google maps
THE Queensland Attorney-General has highlighted the need to deter people from using mobile phones behind the wheel as he sought jail time for a Sunshine Coast P-plater who killed a pedestrian while looking at Google maps.
Director of Public Prosecutions Tony Moynihan said Meghan Catherine Elizabeth Hopper was "deliberately not keeping a proper lookout" as she drove along a road near the Elimbah train station in July, 2012.
He said the wholly suspended 2.5-year jail term she received after killing Taiwanese fruit picker Chen-Chuan Yang and causing grievous bodily harm to Kwan-Jung Wu was manifestly inadequate.
Ms Hopper was again caught using Google maps while driving less than five months later.
"This is a common case where a driver, deliberately and unlawfully using a mobile phone, does not keep any proper lookout and it has catastrophic consequences," Mr Moynihan told the Queensland Court of Appeal.
Mr Moynihan said the sentencing judge should not have found that it was unusual for pedestrians to be on a country road because it was near a train station.
He said while Ms Hopper was on the grass of the road verge for 22 metres, it was impossible to know how many seconds she was "completely and deliberating distracted from her driving" looking at her phone.
"That may have caused the vehicle to go to the left where there may or may not have been pedestrians," he said.
"It may also have caused the vehicle to go to the right and collide head-on with a vehicle coming in the opposite direction.
"One should anticipate at least oncoming vehicles."
Mr Moynihan said Hopper's age, 17 at the time of the crash, did not outweigh the "serious fault and extreme consequences" of killing one man and seriously injuring another.
When Justice Hugh Fraser said "the obviously common use of mobile phones while people are driving" was of grave concern, Mr Moynihan argued that was why it was important courts deter and denounce the behaviour through the sentences it imposes.
Justice David Boddice suggested this was a "classic example" of someone who needed supervision, rather than a suspended sentence.
Defence barrister Michael Byrne argued the suspended sentence was sufficient punishment because it would hang over her head for three years and if she erred again, she might have to serve that term.
He questioned the value to the community if she was put into prison "after this period of time when she has done all the things she could have done to reintegrate into society and move forward".
"This is a young woman who has had really an impeccable past, apart from the traffic matters," he said.
Justice Fraser said that traffic history could be "characterised as an inability or an unwillingness to comply with lawful regulations just as it is to pick up your phone and look at Google maps".
Mr Moynihan said Ms Hopper's previous traffic offending showed a "cavalier and irresponsible attitude to the responsibilities entailed in driving a vehicle".
In that case, she backed into another car at a service station and then drove off without reporting it while she was failing to display P-plates.
Mr Moynihan said the sentencing judge erred in finding that matter irrelevant and unremarkable
He said Ms Hopper's use of Google maps while driving five months later - this time in a city where one could expect pedestrians - demonstrated "the exceptional need for personal deterrence in this case".
"That obviously shows a lack of insight and probably more importantly, for sentencing purposes, that it was not an isolated aberration unlikely to be repeated," he said.
"It feeds into the likely prospects of rehabilitation."
The Court of Appeal reserved its decision.