A young driver killed a ‘bubbly and outgoing’ innocent motorist when she became distracted by sending cheeky monkey faces and love heart emojis, a court heard.
Gemma Evans was accused of using Facebook and Whatsapp to send messages while driving in the dark at 50mph.
The 23-year-old has been jailed for six months after her black mini swerved across a road, smashing into 58-year-old mother-of-two Diane Price, who was killed instantly.
Evans had claimed her mobile phone was in the cup holder and that she didn’t use it during her journey through Breacon, Wales.
However, police found cheeky monkey, love heart and thumbs up emojis on messages sent and received by her mobile phone.
Despite this, a jury at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court cleared her of causing death by dangerous driving after hearing it was impossible to know whether Evans was stationary or driving at the time they were sent.
Evans, who works in the agricultural industry, admitted causing death by careless driving and was jailed for six months and banned from driving for three years.
The court heard the mobile phone was an ‘obvious factor’ in the fatal crash at 7.30am on 9 December 2016.
Judge Patrick Curran said: ‘The jury may have thought it a reasonable possibility that she was distracted by the light coming on when a message came through and that caused the swerve.
‘It’s another illustration as to why people at all when they are in a motor vehicle should not have mobile phones switched on.
‘The potential for appalling accidents such as these is obvious.’
He told Evans: ‘The phone distracted you so much that you left your own carriageway and drove into another car.
‘But I can give you a minimum sentence of six months because you are remorseful and a hardworking young woman.’
Evans had been driving to work at 7.30am on Friday 9 December 2016 while Mrs Price was coming the other way after spending the night caring for her elderly father.
The court heard how auxiliary nurse Mrs Price, of Brecon, was due to go Christmas shopping with a friend later that day.
She was described as a ‘bubbly and outgoing’ woman who was at the heart of her family and had 11 grandchildren and a great grandchild.
In a victim impact statement her husband of 25 years Anthony said: ‘We cry every day, we are so hurt that Diane has been taken from us.
‘I am so lonely, I keep expecting her to walk through the door. I can’t understand why it happened, she was only two miles from home on a straight piece of road.
‘I can’t forgive and I want justice for Diane.’
Sergeant Ian Price, senior investigating officer, said: ‘Let there be no mistake in that the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving is a serious matter and through the inattention of Gemma Evans that day, the life of Diana Price was needlessly taken away, leaving a family without a daughter, wife, sister and mother.
‘Using a hand-held mobile phone when driving is, in itself, an unlawful act.
‘The fact that Miss Evans was avoidably distracted by her mobile phone when she lost control of her car, resulting in the death of Mrs Price emphasises the importance of switching your mobile phone off at the start of your journey.
‘Research has shown that looking at your phone – even for just a second or two – while driving produces the same level of distraction as drunk driving.
‘It is a sad reflection that many in society do not see this crime as socially unacceptable, and it concerns me as a police officer that more and more people are paying the ultimate sacrifice due to the obsessive addiction within society to their mobile phones.
‘Our thoughts remain with the family of Mrs Price Who have shown a great deal of dignity through this difficult time.’
Evans, of Brecon, wiped away tears as she was led to the cells.