When teen Aaron Deveau drove while texting he took a life, and yesterday he was convicted of vehicular manslaughter. He’ll be serving one year in prison in Massachusetts and face other penalties like having his license suspended for 15 years.
The accident took place February 20, 2011 when Deveau was 17. He had sent and received 193 texts during the course of the day. While he first told police that he was not texting at the time of the crash, evidence showed that he sent a text just two minutes before the accident and received a message only one minute before the impact.
Deveau’s distracted driving lead him to cross the center lane and strike another car in a devastating head-on-collision. Eighteen days later, 55-year-old Daniel Bowley Jr., died of his injuries in a Boston hospital. His girlfriend Donna Burleigh, who was also seriously injured in the crash, was able to testify at trial about her experience and her loss. One of Bowley’s three children also testified at trial.
During his testimony, Deveau apologized to the family while his attorney tried to make the case that texting was not a relevant issue. His strategy failed, and the Judge Abany gave out a shocking sentence – prison time for texting while driving.
According to The Boston Globe, “Abany said from the bench that a criminal sentence is based on four principles — punishment, public safety, rehabilitation, and deterrence. Of those four issues, deterrence was his primary concern.” Abany did suspend a portion of the sentence, and the one year that Deveau will serve is well below the maximum sentence.
In support of the court’s decision, the State Police issued a powerful statement saying, “We should never forget that his [Deveau’s] family will see him again, will talk to him, will mark holidays and milestones with him, but the victim’s family will always have an empty seat at their table, a hole in their lives, and only memories of the person they loved. That’s what distracted driving does.”
National government officials have also weighed in on this one. The National Safety Council’s senior director of transportation David Teater told media sources that he agreed with the decision. Governments across the nation are starting to send a message – text, drive and face serious criminal consequences.
Big Picture – Changes We Can All Expect
Texting and driving has gone from a small-time offense that might, maybe, get you a ticket if you’re caught by a cop on a slow day to a major criminal act that is like driving under the influence. The government is getting tough on distracted driving, and with good reason. It’s important to realize that this isn’t just about Deveau and it’s not just about teenagers who text either – it’s the big picture of how we interact with technology as a nation.
We’re all starting to get smart phones and other devices that can pose a danger to us that we don’t always recognize. The laws aren’t clearly defined yet, and even the technology is constantly changing, but what we know for a fact is that there are life-and-death realities here. We’ll all have to adjust our personal habits and our community laws to make room for both the advantages and dangers of our new tech-heavy world.