Texting Behind the Wheel Ruins Lives of Victims and Offenders

“Texting and driving: it can wait.” That simple phrase is the backbone of an anti-texting public awareness campaign around the country led by cellular giant AT&T. The company is airing commercial-length public service announcements featuring real people whose lives have been irreparably changed because of vehicular accidents caused by reading or sending text messages. They are also sponsoring an online pledge drive aimed at convincing people to refrain from texting behind the wheel.

The AT&T campaign coincides with a landmark case from Massachusetts where 18-year-old Aaron Devau has the distinction of being one of the first people in the country to be convicted of vehicular manslaughter for texting (among other charges). Devau was texting behind the wheel back in February of 2011 when his car crossed the centerline and struck another vehicle head-on.

The accident killed a New Jersey man and seriously injured a female passenger in the car. The texting driver was charged with (and convicted of) vehicular manslaughter, texting while driving and negligent operation of a motor vehicle. He was sentenced to serve at least a year in jail, and his driving privileges were suspended for 15 years.

As tragic as that Massachusetts case is, legal minds around the country fear it may be the beginning of a trend as more people – especially “novice” drivers under the age of 21 – are bringing their attention-sucking devices with them behind the wheel.

In fact, the younger generation is so in-tune with their technological devices that they don’t even need to be actively using them to be distracted by them. A recent study performed by the University of Washington indicated that simply anticipating the impending arrival of a text or phone call can be as distracting as actually getting one.

Another study, this one from the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine, showed it didn’t matter if the young drivers were texting with their phone below the wheel or in a position of their choice, they still swerved out of their lane or crashed into other vehicles in road test simulations. The impact that texting has on the driving ability and reaction time of a distracted driver are two reasons why AT&T, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation have devoted so many resources to educating people about the dangers of texting while driving.

Distracted driving is deadly driving. This fact has prompted many states to ban texting behind the wheel (at the very least for novice drivers). However, distracted driving accidents linked to sending or reading texts are still on the rise. If you or a loved one has been injured by the distracted driving of another person, consider speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your possible legal avenues.

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