In a tragic case that has drawn national attention, Aaron Deveau, a Haverhill, Massachusetts teenage, had the “book thrown at him” for causing a fatal crash due to texting and driving.
According to the trial testimony, Deveau’s car crossed a center line and smashed into the victim’s car head-on on Feb. 20, 2011. Evidence was adduced that Deveau had been texting and driving.
Deveau was convicted of negligent operation of a motor vehicle and vehicular homicide and was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail. The judge stated that he imposed the maximum sentence primarily to deter others from engaging in this dangerous conduct. Deveau will only serve 1 year, however, because the judge suspended the balance of his sentence.
For me, the jail sentence was not the surprising part. Rather, for me, the unusual part was the fact that Deveau’s driver’s license was suspended for 15 years. This is, by far, the longest period of suspension that I have ever seen imposed in 25 years of practicing law. While a 15-year suspension may seem severe on its face, I believe the judge wanted to send a clear message about the scourge of distracted driving.
Like Massachusetts, it is illegal to use an electronic device while driving in New York. It is also illegal to use a cell phone without a hands-free device. Both violations carry 3-points and roughly $200 fines. Yet distracted driving continues at epidemic proportions. We literally receive 100s of inquiries per month from motorists charged with violating both of these laws. New York lawmakers need to consider what else they can do to discourage this dangerous behavior. Only through stiffer consequences can we alter societal acceptance of this illegal behavior.
For now, PLEASE put away your iPhones and Android devices while driving. As Aaron Deveau now knows, it is just not worth it!!