A teaching assistant who was having an “in-depth conversation” with a friend on her hands-free phone when she killed a Lincoln dad has been jailed for three years.
Samantha Ayres, 34, had been on a phone call for over 25 minutes and was completely on the wrong side of the road when she smashed in to devoted dad David Kirk, 26.
David was riding his motorbike travelling towards Horsington when he was struck by the Ford Fiesta being driven by Ayres towards Waddingworth.
He sadly died at the scene.
Ayres, from Horncastle, was convicted on Wednesday, November 29 of causing death by dangerous driving on November 7, 2016 on Baumber Road, Horsington.
She was today sentenced at Lincoln Crown Court to three-years in prison and disqualified from driving for four-and-a-half-years on Wednesday, December 6.
Phone records showed Ayres had made four “hands free” voice calls during her journey and was still mid-conversation just moments before killing Mr Kirk.
Judge John Pini QC had adjourned sentence after finding the jury had considered the use of “hands free” in these circumstances as dangerous.
In sentencing, the judge said she was most probably distracted by her long phone call.
Passing sentence at Lincoln Crown Court, Judge Pini told Ayres: “You pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving. The basis of your plea was that your rear nearside tyre contacted the verge which set in train a series of events causing you to lose control of your car.
“The jury rejected your account and accepted that you were distracted by using your hands free phone.
“In my judgement your account of how this happened was dishonest. You were simply on the wrong side of the road.
“The fact is you were so distracted , most probably by the long phone call, that you were not paying attention properly to the road and to other road users.
“The evidence from Mrs Kirk as to the effect this tragedy has had on her and her young child was utterly heart-breaking.
“She and her husband had been married for five years and had all of the future to look forward to together. Your actions have left her without a husband, and their very young daughter without a father. His mother has lost a son and his sister her brother.”
Mr Kirk’s widow, Katie, 26, was in court with other members of his family to watch Ayres sentenced.
The father-of-one, from Lincoln, had worked at a motorcycle dealers in the city since the age of 14 and left a two-year-old daughter, Alyssa.
Afterwards Mrs Kirk said: “As a result of the driving of Mrs Ayres our family now has to live with this tremendous loss. Alyssa had just turned one when her daddy was killed, she has her whole life to live without her daddy.
“As a family we talk about David with Alyssa and she will know what a wonderful man her father is but she will not have any genuine memories about him.”
The phone call
It is not currently against the law to use hands free kits unless you are touching a mobile but both the Highway Code and Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents advise it could be a distraction.
In the moments before she collided with Mr Kirk, Ayres had been on the phone to friend Marc Lunn.
Mr Lunn remained on the line for a short period after hearing Ayres swear. The length of the call between them was recorded at 27 minutes and 31 seconds.
In a statement read to the jury Mr Lunn, who works for a VW dealership in Derby, said: “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.
“I immediately thought an accident had occurred. There was no response. I stayed on the line for 10 or 20 seconds and then ended the call.”
Sergeant Chris Dennett, the Lead Investigator, from the Serious Collision Investigation Unit at Lincolnshire Police, said: “It was proven that she was engaged in a lengthy “hands free” phone call leading up to, and at the point of, the collision.
“International research evidence on the distracting effects of using the phone while driving is overwhelming, some of which shows a four-to-nine times greater risk of having a collision by doing so.
“The cognitive load whilst driving is very high; it is greatly increased if you combine that with being on the phone too.
“If you use a phone in any way whilst driving, you alone take on the responsibility that you can still perform your duty to everyone around you as a road user, to drive safely and not be distracted from the task.
“This case shows that if you use a phone and drive, it is not about just having both hands on the steering wheel, it’s about having your mind on the road. The results of being on the phone when driving can be catastrophic.”
Michelle Stuart-Lofthouse, mitigating, said Ayres was genuinely remorseful and had suffered with depression, self loathing and suicidal tendencies since the crash.
Miss Stuart-Lofthouse added: “She (Ayres) wishes she could swap her life with Mr Kirk.”