The concept of distracted driving has been a part of the mainstream safety channels for nearly a decade – due in part to the rapid influx of handheld smartphone technology. Nonetheless, the issue continues to plague roadways nationwide, resulting in thousands of injuries and needless fatalities each year.
Just recently, a Michigan trial court judge sentenced a 23-year old woman to 90 days’ in jail, two years’ probation, and $15,000 in restitution after she pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of committing a moving violation causing death. The facts of the case reveal that, on the morning of the incident, the victim was riding her bicycle when the defendant came upon her, unknowingly striking her while checking on an incoming cellular phone call. The 35-year old victim, who left behind two young sons and a promising career, was reportedly positioned safely on the shoulder of the road at the time of the incident – which was presumably caused when both the defendant’s focus and vehicle were diverted from the roadway.
Judge orders creative sentence
In addition to the traditional sentence of jail time and restitution, however, the judge also imposed a two-year ban on the defendant owning a cellular phone – citing that there is no fundamental right to the convenience and “that there is a price to pay if you’re negligent and it cost the life of another person.” The defendant, whose counsel stated she has no intent on appealing the sentence, appeared remorseful at the sentencing hearing – and even embraced the victim’s surviving spouse.
The judge further remarked on the precedential nature of the sentence, which has been heralded by criminal law experts as a possible breakthrough in combating the preventable epidemic of distracting driving: “I’m not naive, I understand it’s going to be hard to enforce and hard to supervise….This is Smalltown, U.S.A. [and] people are going to know.”
Reportedly, it was the victim’s surviving husband who suggested the cell phone ban, which the judge described as a “novel request.”
Tough consequences for distracted drivers
When distracted driving leads to injury or fatality, offenders often have to answer to more than just state criminal sanctions. Under the civil laws – including those in South Carolina – a surviving victim or her surviving family members (if deceased) can initiate a negligence lawsuit to hold the driver financially responsible for the costs of the crime. Even if the accident was truly an unintentional stroke of bad luck, using a handheld device while driving is not only illegal, it is unreasonably dangerous – and should be addressed through the proper allocation of liability to the responsible party.
In South Carolina, negligence occurs when an individual breaches a duty of reasonable care to another person, resulting in physical and/or financial injuries. In a case resulting in fatality like that described above, surviving family members may step into the victim’s shoes to hold the defendant responsible for his or her actions. Working with an experienced personal injury lawyer is a vital component to the process that can help victims and their families obtain the compensation they deserve.
Work with a SC distracted driver accident lawyer you can trust
If you recently experienced a devastating personal injury and would like to discuss your options under South Carolina law, please do not hesitate to contact The Jeffcoat Firm right away. To schedule your consultation with a South Carolina car accident attorney, call (803) 200-2000