We’ve seen these kinds of scenarios play out more and more across the country over the past several years; a driver using his or her cellphone losses concentration on the road and causes an accident as a result of a simple yet deadly moment of distraction. Was that phone call or text message really worth it? The answer is obvious — an emphatic, No! — yet roadway collisions, many fatal, continue apace with few signs of abating. What to do?
As Maryland personal injury attorneys, we have heard numerous pleas for a reduction in phone calls and texting while driving. Some legislators in many states all across the country have suggested making cellphone use while driving into an offense akin to driving while impaired. Some people may guffaw at such a notion, thought the danger of texting and other distracting activities by drivers is shown to be real and immediate.
Over the last several years, cellphone and, subsequently, smartphone use has brought a real and serious danger into the front seat of nearly every vehicle on the road. While not every driver is guilty of texting while driving, 36 states have already outlawed that activity. But laws can be broken and this has given rise to increasingly strident calls for stricter penalties to be attached to cellphone use when it can be shown to have contributed to a fatal automobile or commercial trucking accident.
It wasn’t long ago that U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, essentially said that there should be an all-out ban on cellphone use by drivers; not just texting, but making and receiving phone calls as well. Editorials have been published echoing the concern that many safety advocates have been warning of regarding the potentially deadly combination of cell- and smartphone use by motorists, to the point that DWI- and DUI-style fines and jail time be assigned to traffic offenses involving cellphone use.
Many a car, truck and motorcycle accident has resulted from some kind of distracted driving. But the question remains, how soon will the public wake up to the true threat that these devices pose to our health, safety and well-being? Just yesterday, a Massachusetts teen was sentenced to two years in prison for the highway death of another motorist. According to news reports, the crash was directly related to the defendant texting prior to the incident. The 18-year-old will also lose his driving privileges for 15 years after he gets out of jail.
The crash in question occurred late in February, 2011, when Aaron Deveau, aged 17 at the time, was driving along a road in Haverhill, MA. Based on court records, the teen was texting on his cellphone when the vehicle he was driving crossed the centerline and smashed head-on into a truck driven by 55-year-old Daniel Bowley. Bowley, a father of three, died in the hospital nearly three weeks later. Family members said the victim received severe head trauma as a result of the collision.
Convicted of motor vehicle homicide by texting, Deveau was the first person in that state to be convicted of a texting-related vehicular homicide charges, according to reports. The teenager was initially charged with vehicular homicide as well as negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and using a mobile phone while driving a vehicle, among others.
News articles indicate that Deveau’s lawyer argued no evidence existed to tie Bowley’s death to the actual crash. The defendant, having taken the stand in his defense, reportedly stated that he was only distracted by the amount of homework he had yet to do for school and that his last text message was sent much earlier from a parking area at the grocery store where he worked.
While stating under oath that he neither texted nor remembered texting while driving his vehicle prior to the crash, the prosecution presented cellphone records that indicated Deveau sent a text and received a response within moments of the time that police say the impact occurred.
Massachusetts teen sentenced to prison for texting while driving, MSN.com, June 7, 2012