CNN reports that in a landmark case, Massachusetts teenager, Aaron Deveau, 18, was convicted of vehicular homicide as a result of texting and driving and was sentenced to one year in prison. The prosecutor told jurors that Deveau, then 17, was texting when his car smashed head on into the car of Donald Bowley, killing the father of three and seriously injuring his passenger. Cell phone records introduced into evidence showed that Deveau sent and received 193 texts on the day of the fatal crash. The prosecutor argued that the records show that Deveau must have been texting at the time of the crash since he sent a text shortly before impact. The Defendant maintained that he was not texting but was tired and was thinking about homework and that caused him to become distracted and cross the center line. The jury found him guilty of vehicular homicide, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and texting while driving.
The serious dangers of texting and driving were pointed out in a study conducted by University of Utah professor, David Strayer. His research demonstrated that texting while driving was by far the most dangerous distraction that drivers regularly engage in. He found that texting while driving was twice as dangerous as driving while drunk.
Currently, Illinois law prohibits drivers from texting and driving. Illinois Vehicle Code at 625 ILCS 5/12-610.2 states a driver cannot text, instant message, email, or surf the web while driving. However, this is only a petty offense in Illinois and has a penalty of fine only. The maximum fine is $1,000.00.
The Chicago injury lawyer firm of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. has litigated several cases involving distracted drivers. In one recent case that Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. settled, the defendant, a Lane Tech High School student, admitted that she was texting a friend when she rear ended our client who was riding his bicycle on Western Ave. in Chicago. Our client received serious injuries and the defendant was not even ticketed. Given that texting and driving negatively affects a persons ability to drive safely even more than driving drunk, a strong case could be made for much stiffer penalties for texting while driving in Illinois.