A Massachusetts teenager was sentenced this week to two years in prison and loss of his license for 15 years after being convicted of motor vehicle homicide. Aaron Deveau, 18, is the first driver in the state to face such charges. On February 20, 2011, Deveau was driving and his vehicle swerved across the center line, crashing head on into Daniel Bowley’s truck, causing life-ending injuries.
Bowley, a 55-year-old father of three, sustained massive head trauma from the accident and spent 18 days in a Boston hospital before passing away. Deveau pleaded not guilty to texting while driving, and claimed in his testimony that he was distracted by the amount of homework he had and had sent his last text message in the parking lot of the grocery store where he worked. He said he had left the phone on the passenger’s seat the whole time, but phone records showed that Devea sent a text message at 2:34 p.m. and received a response at 2:35 p.m.—the time of the crash.
District Court Judge Stephen Abany said that the maximum sentence for motor vehicle homicide was doled out to send a message of deterrence to the state’s drivers.
Deterrence “really seems to come to play in this case. People really want to be safe on the highways,” he said. People need to “keep their eyes on the road.”
David Teater, senior director of the transportation initiative at the National Safety Council, agreed with the ruling.
“People can violate these laws and there really isn’t much of a deterrence without examples like this. Clearly, being distracted is an extremely deadly thing that’s going on in this country and people need to understand they just can’t do it,” Teater said.
Texting while driving is a crime in 38 states, but the illegality doesn’t seem to deter many people, as watching rush-hour traffic can seem like watching bumper cars as people drift in and out of lane lines.
“This is a threat that did not exist just a few years ago, and we’ve never had to understand how being connected to a mobile world was dangerous,” Teater said. “Unfortunately, now the way we’re beginning to understand the danger of it is by people getting hurt and dying. Which needs to change.”