The charge for texting while driving homicide represents a new step in the nation’s war against texting on America’s roads.
Jennifer Sahoye, a New Jersey woman, was originally charged with causing death while driving with a suspended license. But, when it emerged that she had been texting while driving during the fatal accident, the new texting while driving homicide charge was added to the list.
Witnesses reported seeing Sahoye looking down while behind the wheel before the fatal crash, providing more information that texting while driving played an important role in the homicide.
“We look at: was the driver acting intentionally, were they acting recklessly?” Essex County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Fennelly said. “And in this case we feel her conduct was reckless, justifying the charge.”
Sadly, accidents like Sahoye’s are not new; only enforcement against them is new. Nearly 3,000 teens – not even counting adults – died in distracted driving related accidents in 2012, according to Pew, and the final statistics in 2013 are expected to be far higher. Texting while driving, which causes a 23X increase in the possibility of an accident versus normal driving, is now the most significant driver behind increased distracted driving accidents.
The community – and the nation – remain divided on how to punish texting while driving homicide. Although most adults and teens know the activity is dangerous, Pew statistics suggest well over one third engage in the activity. So, the prospect of serious prison time for a still ubiquitous activity frightens many people.
Yet, that fear may be exactly what is needed to drive down fatality rates.