You’ve heard that texting while driving can kill. It can also help land you in jail.
On Wednesday a Massachusetts judge sentenced 19-year-old Aaron Deveau to a year in jail for motor vehicle homicide and negligent operation while texting, the Associated Press reports.
It was the first time in the state’s history that someone has been convicted of causing a fatal accident while texting.
Deveau was 17 in February 2011, when his car crossed the center line and crashed head-on into another vehicle with two passengers. Deveau was OK, but the people in the other car -- Donald Bowley Jr., 55, and his girlfriend Luz Selena Roman, 58 -- were seriously injured. Eighteen days after the crash, Bowley, a father of three, died.
In the courtroom, Deveau insisted that he was not texting at the time of the accident, but prosecutors said Deveau sent 193 text messages on the day of the crash, including one just before impact, CBS Boston reports.
In addition to the jail time, Deveau has been stripped of his driver’s license for 15 years.
David Strayer, a professor at the University of Utah who studies driver distraction, said the Deveau case sets a precedent.
“This is one of the first cases that really went after criminal prosecution,” he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “A year in jail for a felony conviction is a serious ratcheting up of the penalties associated with texting and driving, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it keeps ratcheting up.”
Strayer’s research has shown that texting while driving is more dangerous than talking on the phone while driving, talking to a passenger while driving or eating while driving. He said it is also twice as dangerous as having a blood alcohol level of 0.08 while driving.
“Getting a text while driving is a triple whammy,” he said. “You take your eyes off the road to look at the text, you take your hand off the wheel to respond to the text, and your mind is distracted because you have to think about what you are going to write back.”
Strayer estimates that 80% of teens -- who are by definition novice drivers -- have texted behind the wheel at some point.
“Technology is moving at a much faster pace than common sense or law can handle,” he said. “And we don’t really know how to arrest this behavior.”