The Mail is counting down the top 10 most read stories of 2016. Here’s what came in at number eight:
September 7, 2016: For those of us who use them regularly, Perth's roads can be many things – infuriating, frustrating and tedious, especially when there's merging.
But for someone who's never driven on the city's tarmac, the roads can be confusing, even intimidating.
So when 17-year-old Bunbury high school student Chloe Richardson was driving on the freeway in Perth for the very first time on Father's Day she was pretty nervous – so nervous that she forgot to check her blind spot properly before she changed lanes.
"I went to change lanes and I will admit I didn't check it right – and when I moved over I saw there was a car right behind me so I pulled back in my lane, no harm done," she said.
A bad situation avoided – or so she thought.
"My friend Holly who was in the car with me got a call from her mum almost instantly and she was asking 'is that your car?' and we didn't know what she was talking about. So she got onto Facebook and saw there was a picture of my car showing the license plate with a caption accusing me of driving while I was on the phone," Ms Richardson said.
"I can 100 per cent say I was not on the phone. This was my first trip to Perth driving so I didn't want anything to go wrong."
Later on, scrolling through Facebook, Ms Richardson saw that the photograph of her car, with the number plate visible, had been posted to numerous Facebook groups, including Mandurah Q&A and Bunbury Crimestoppers – accessible to more than 20,000 people.
The high school student quickly found herself in the eye of a social media storm, being condemned by some users – while others came forward to support her.
It appears that the original posts shaming Ms Richardson have now been deleted. Nevertheless, she took to Facebook to defend herself with a lengthy rebuttal.
"So hello everyone, I am the driver of that little red car that has been posted and shared all over Facebook... 'That I was texting on my phone' 'Swerving all over the road' 'I could ruin someone's Father's Day...maybe even yours! I can 100% say I did not even look at my phone. I was not 'swerving all over the road,' it was purely my first drive to Perth," Ms Richardson wrote.
"This has hurt me as it is all over Facebook and even 'ruined my father's day.' It shows how out of control social media can be."
Speaking to WAtoday, Ms Richardson said she was shocked at how people could jump to negative conclusions – and at how many people jumped on the social media bandwagon without knowing the facts.
"It was really embarrassing and very hurtful but I was glad to have all the support I got – it's been really good to talk about it and try to get my side of the story out there," she said.
Facebook groups focused on reporting or preventing crime have been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent weeks, with indigenous broadcaster Debbie Carmody accusing two social media groups of creating a climate of intolerance that helped spark August's race riots in Kalgoorlie.
Ms Richardson's tale is far less incendiary, but she said the same lesson can be heeded.
"Get all the facts. Don't just assume. Don't post about someone and humiliate them if you don't know all the facts," she said.
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