Distracted driver jailed for killing cyclist in crash

A driver who was sending Snapchat messages when she struck and killed a cyclist in Victoria's northeast could be released from custody after six months.

Abby Sturgess, 23, was driving in Lilliput near Rutherglen at 8.12am on January 27, 2023, when she rammed into the back of 59-year-old cyclist Anthony Reeckman.

Mr Reeckman hit the car's bonnet and was flung about 25 metres.

Sturgess stopped at the scene and called triple zero but paramedics were unable to revive Mr Reeckman, who died from multiple traumatic injuries including skull fractures.

She had been travelling between 79km/h and 87km/h at the time of the collision, and she had no drugs or alcohol in her system.

But when questioned by police, Sturgess denied using her phone, instead saying she didn't see Mr Reeckman because the sun was in her eyes.

Investigators later found four messages she had sent on Snapchat in the lead up to the crash.

The Instagram application was also recorded as being open on her phone screen in the seconds before the collision. 

In sentencing Sturgess on Wednesday, County Court Judge Peter Rozen said it was clear the crash was not caused by a momentary lapse of attention.

Rather, Sturgess' phone use was "prolonged and persistent" while she was travelling at high speeds and it led to the death of a beloved member of the community, Judge Rozen said.

He accepted the 23-year-old was a young woman of otherwise impeccable character but found her moral culpability for the offending was considerable.

The judge also accepted Sturgess' diagnosed post-traumatic stress and adjustment disorders would make her time behind bars more difficult.

Sturgess' prospects of rehabilitation were excellent, she had shown genuine remorse and had entered an early guilty plea to the charge of dangerous driving causing death, Judge Rozen said. 

But the judge said the only available sentence was a jail term due to the severity of the crime and the need to deter others from committing similar offences.

Sturgess was jailed for one year and four months but she will be eligible for parole after six months.

Her licence was also cancelled and she was disqualified from driving for 18 months.

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