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In a landmark case this month, Aaron Deveau, 18, became the first driver in Massachusetts to be found guilty of motor vehicle homicide by texting. He was sentenced to two years in prison and loss of his license for 15 years.
Prosecutors said Deveau, who pleaded not guilty, was texting when his vehicle swerved across the center line of a Haverhill street and crashed head on into Donald Bowley's truck on Feb. 20, 2011. The crash killed Mr. Bowley, a 55-year-old father of three.
Deveau's attention was focused not on the road in front of him but on a text message, one of 193 texts he sent the day of the crash. One moment of inattention was all it took to kill Mr. Bowley and also cause severe injury to the deceased's passenger.
The Massachusetts law imposes a $100 fine and 60-day license suspension for drivers under 18 who use any mobile device or telephone, including hands-free models, while driving. It imposes a $100 fine for drivers over 18 who access the internet or type or read text messages or emails while driving, with fines escalating to $250 and $500 for second and third offenses.
It imposes imprisonment for not less than two weeks, and up to two years, for drivers who cause injury or property damage due to negligent driving while sending or reading texts or emails.
Without contacting the victim's family to inquire, I think we can take an educated guess that they're not pleased with the brevity of the prison sentence.
Clearly, when someone's negligence as a driver results in the loss of life, the value of that human loss should translate into more than 2 years time. While some may be encouraged that Massachusetts, along with 37 other states now have a law on the books that addresses distracted driving, hopefully they will contact their state legislatures and demand that the punishment fit the crime.
What do you think? If a texting teen killed your dad in a car crash, would you think a 2-year sentence is sufficient punishment?