Texting and Driving – Teen Gets Jail Time for Deadly Accident
Over the last year or so, there have been several reports citing statistics about the dangers of texting and driving.
Based on the amount of people still texting and driving, those numbers have not meant much to anyone. Recently, those statistics became a reality for a couple of Massachusetts families.
This stems from a crash that occurred in February of 2011. Aaron Deveau, 17 years old at the time, drove his car over the center line and struck another vehicle driven by Donald Bowley, Jr.
Bowley, a father of three, died as a result of the motor vehicle accident. His passenger and girlfriend, received significant injuries.
Deveau was accused of texting and driving at the time of the accident. Although Deveau denied it, prosecutors said he sent 193 text messages the day of the accident, including some within a minute of the crash.
Deveau was charged with motor vehicle homicide and negligent operation while texting. He was among the first people convicted under a Massachusetts law that took effect in September 2010, which made texting while driving and causing injury a crime.
Last week, Deveau was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison, with 1 ½ years suspended—leaving one full year behind bars for the now 18 year old.
Driving While Distracted – Current Legal Consequences
Massachusetts is one of 39 states, plus the District of Columbia, which bans texting and driving for all drivers. Ten other states – including California and the District of Columbia – ban all handheld cell phone use for all drivers.
While these laws are on the books, ticketing, arrests and convictions are inconsistent and infrequent. Certainly, convictions with jail time are rare.
Just last April, a 23 year old woman in Minnesota only received 10 years of probation after pleading guilty to texting and driving while she crashed into and killed a 58 year old motorcyclist. The sentencing of Deveau may start a trend that really starts to significantly punish cell phone users while driving.
Stiffer punishments may be what we need as drivers are not getting the message. A new survey, released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposed just how severe the problem still is among all drivers, especially teens. In the survey, approximately 58 percent of high school seniors admitted to texting or e-mailing while driving during the previous month. And about 43 percent of high school juniors admitted to the same actions.
National Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is leading the charge against what he calls a “national epidemic.” Secretary LaHood is in favor of a national ban on all cell phone use while driving. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration did just that for commercial drivers when it banned all hand-held cell phone use in November, 2011. However, laws for passenger vehicles have been left up to the States.
The Transportation Department is attempting to increase enforcement of State laws. It’s awarding $2.4 Million to Delaware and California for pilot projects to combine more police enforcement with publicity campaigns against distracted driving. Similar projects in Syracuse, N.Y. and Hartford, CT., according to Secretary LaHood, are successfully reducing distracted driving in those States.
Over the last few years a lot has been done to try to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. Much of this has centered around the victims of such accidents. Based on the statistics above, this has not been too successful. Perhaps cases like Deveau, where the offender feels the pain also will do more to finally curb distracted driving.