Matt Ruddell: 'There's certain times and places you don't
need to be on your phone and obviously behind the wheel is
one of them.'
The father of two preschoolers badly injured in a crash
that killed their mother wants to start a campaign to stop
people texting while driving.
Tauranga sous chef Matt Ruddell, 27, has spent the past week
at the Starship hospital in Auckland with his 3-year-old
daughter Faith and 4-year-old son Phoenix as they slowly
recover from serious injuries.
Their mother Tracey O'Brien, aged 26, died in the crash
outside the Charlemagne Lodge wedding venue on State Highway
2 at Te Puna, near Tauranga.
Senior Sergeant Ian Campion said this week Ms O'Brien wasn't
wearing her seatbelt and that the preliminary indications
were that she might have been texting.
Her southbound vehicle was "well and truly" in the northbound
lane when it collided with another vehicle.
Mr Ruddell said he wanted the crash to serve as a reminder to
people of the dangers of using your cellphone behind the
It wasn't just Ms O'Brien who might have been guilty of it,
he said; there were too many New Zealanders ignoring the law
and the consequences could be deadly.
In 2009, it became illegal to use mobile phones while
Since then, the number of recorded monthly offences had
almost doubled, police statistics show.
"I'm bad for it myself," Mr Ruddell admitted.
"But there's certain times and places you don't need to be on
your phone and obviously behind the wheel is one of them.
"I plan when I get back [to Tauranga] to start printing
T-shirts and posters with 'divorce your phone', or words to
Mr Ruddell said he wanted to lay a wreath at the site of the
crash that killed his former partner of six years.
He also hoped to also put up a billboard urging people not to
text while driving.
He said that while the police hadn't confirmed that Ms
O'Brien's use of her phone was the sole cause of the crash,
they had told him it was likely "a contributing factor".
Even before the police statement on the day of the fatal
crash last Saturday - Mr Ruddell had posted his thoughts on
Facebook: "May this be a massive wake-up call to everyone
never txt and drive."
He said he just knew his assumption wouldn't be far from the
"For anyone that does know her, if she wasn't on Facebook or
texting, she was just app after app.
"She had a big group of friends, she was a very social person
"Her phone was glued to her hand. She never went anywhere