Texting while driving is a serious offense. On September 30, 2010, Massachusetts enacted a texting while driving law prohibiting all drivers from composing, sending, or reading text messages while driving. (M.G.L. c. 90 § 13B) At the same time, Massachusetts enacted an even stricter law prohibiting teenagers under the age of 18 from using any type of cell phone whatsoever while driving, including a hands-free phone or other mobile electronic device. (M.G.L. c. 90 § 8M)
In a nut shell, this means that (1) all drivers, regardless of age, are prohibited from texting while driving, and (2) all drivers under 18 are prohibited from using a cell phone or hands-free device whatsoever.
Yesterday, an 18-year old Haverhill teenager, who was 17 at the time of the accident, was convicted of texting while driving. It was reported that the teenager had sent 193 texts that day, a couple texts shortly before the accident, and then several more after the accident. The teenager was distracted from his driving, crossed the center line, and struck another vehicle head-on, killing a man and seriously injuring a woman. The teenager was charged with a host of traffic violations, including the new texting while driving violation, as well as a very serious charge of vehicle homicide. (M.G.L. c. 24 § 24G)
The teenager was sentenced to serve one year of jail time, conduct 40 hours of community service, and lost his driver’s license for 15 years. This teenage won’t be able to drive again until he is about 32 years old.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s report which includes motor vehicle accidents and fatalities statistics, there were 33,808 fatal car crashes in 2009.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 5,474 (16%) of fatal car crashes in 2009 were attributable to driver distraction. More specifically, 995 (18%) of driver-distracted fatal accidents involved a cell phone.
“Distraction is a specific type of inattention from the driving task to focus on some other activity instead.” (See NHTSA) This includes a myriad of distractions such as “cell phones, eating, talking to passengers, looking outside, etc… fatigue, physical conditions of the driver, and emotional conditions of the driver.” (See NHTSA)
Astonishingly, AAA conducted a study of 1,000 teens in 2007 and found that texting while driving is just as dangerous as drinking and driving with 46% of teens admitting to texting while driving.
Many of us recognize the dangers of distracted driving but are adamant that it won’t happen to me or that my teenager won’t do that. Think proactively and make a change. Remember that you are the biggest influence on your teenager and they are watching you as you talk or text while driving. This Haverhill case decision clearly shows the ramifications of texting while driving.
If you would like to learn more about this topic, please click on the link to view ABC News “Mass. Teen Aaron Deveau Faces Prison in Landmark Texting Homicide Case.”
Karsner & Meehan, P.C. is a well-seasoned law firm, handling fatal Massachusetts car crashes caused by driver distraction for over 30 years. If you or anyone you know has been injured or tragically died in a car crash caused by driver distraction in Bristol County or elsewhere in Massachusetts, you should contact the experienced attorneys at Karsner & Meehan, P.C. to schedule your free consultation.