Lawmakers in every state have struggled to come up with ways to address the threat of drivers looking at their phones instead of at the road ahead of them. In New York, using a handheld telephone or portable electronic device while driving is illegal and punishable by steep fines and other penalties. New Jersey has a similar law, and police in that state have handed out more than 10,000 citations for cellphone use and other distracted driving over the past year.
Recently, New Jersey put a woman on trial for vehicular homicide after allegedly a pedestrian was killed in an accident the prosecution argues was the result of texting while driving. News reports said this is the first texting-and-driving homicide case in the state’s history.
The accident happened in 2016 when a young woman was crossing the street in a crosswalk. According to news reports, a red car was stopped at the crosswalk to let her cross when a second car slammed into the red car, sending it into the crosswalk and striking the pedestrian. She suffered severe head injury and died five days later.
It is the woman who was driving the second car who was charged in the case. Prosecutors say she was using her phone to text when she crashed into the red car. Her lawyer argues that she was not texting, but was distracted as she adjusted her car’s defrost settings.
This tragic story illustrates a couple important points about texting and driving. One, of course, is that it’s dangerous and can lead to injury and death. The other is that there has been so much attention paid to the problem that defendants reasonably fear that a court will be unforgiving if it learns they were texting while driving.
While everyone wants our streets to be safer, it’s important to remember that everyone accused of a crime is entitled to a defense. People in the New York metropolitan area who have been accused of texting while driving and other traffic violations need help from a defense attorney.