Driver looked at phone moments before Marong Road head-on which left other motorist in intensive care

SES members work to free a driver involved in a crash on Marong Road. The other driver was looking at their phone, a court was told.
SES members work to free a driver involved in a crash on Marong Road. The other driver was looking at their phone, a court was told.

A DRIVER was looking at his mobile phone moments before a head-on collision on Marong Road in West Bendigo which left a man in intensive care, a court has heard.

Jamie-Ross Benbow, 27, pleaded guilty in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday to dangerous driving causing serious injury for the crash on April 2.

Witnesses told police Benbow, who was driving west, was crossing the dividing line for about 80 metres before hitting the oncoming ute which hit a tree near the Bendigo Stadium.

A driver heading in the opposite direction said they saw Benbow with one hand on the wheel while looking into his lap.

The driver of the ute was trapped and required SES and CFA crews to free him before he was rushed to hospital in a critical condition.

He suffered multiple fractures to his knees and toes, deep lacerations to his elbow and required a blood infusion.

He was in hospital for more than two months, the court heard, but has since been able to make a “good recovery”.

He provided a victim impact statement to the court, detailing the ongoing effects of the crash.

Benbow, who was on his P-plates at the time, told police he looked at his phone “for two seconds, next thing I’m here”. He was uninjured in the crash.

He claimed he was using his phone as GPS and it was giving him directions via a headset, which he believed was a legal use of the phone.

Benbow also said “the steering wheel just yanked right” and hit the oncoming ute in “a split second”. He said the car had suffered similar mechanical problems in the past.

Defence counsel Marko Habib said an expert would be called to the court to discuss the “behaviour of the car”, but the matter resolved on Tuesday when Magistrate John Doherty offered a sentence so the contested hearing was not required.

Benbow was convicted and placed on a 12-month community corrections order, with 250 hours of unpaid community work.

His licence was canceled and he was disqualified from driving for two years.