A New Windsor, NY judge has ruled that a teen was texting while driving, leading to a fatal accident that killed his nineteen year old friend, reports USA Today. The driver, also nineteen from Chappaqua, NY, claimed that he had fallen asleep at the wheel. The decedent’s family subpoenaed phone records from the driver during a civil suit. After reviewing the records, the court found that the teen had, in fact, been using his cell phone while driving. Of note, during a police investigation for possible criminal charges, investigators were unable to find cell phone use, and a grand jury did not indict the teen. However, it is unclear if the police ever subpoenaed the actual phone records.
The judge in the civil court ruling used words such as “gross negligence” and “reckless disregard for life” in her ruling, made on January seventeenth. Fortunately for the driver, this was not a criminal trial, in which a finding death resulting from reckless disregard could lead to serious criminal ramifications. Of course, in a criminal trial the judge or jury would be operating under a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, so this finding may not have been made. Still, the judge’s choice of language underscores the seriousness with which the courts now view distracted drivers.
The USA Today article cites some frightening statistics regarding teenage distracted drivers. Almost fifty percent of students surveyed aged sixteen and above admitted that they had texted or emailed while driving in the past month. These teens were also more likely to drive after drinking and not wear seat belts. The ubiquity of technology has led to many great advances and increased inter-connectedness in today’s society. With it comes dangers, however, as evidenced by this tragic New York car accident.
The full story, including family reactions and the opinions of the driver’s attorney, can be found here at USA Today.