Should Texting While Driving Be Treated Like Drunken Driving?

Should Texting While Driving Be Treated Like Drunken Driving?

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Though texting and driving is banned in most states, the law still typically treats it as a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine. However, some states are pushing to treat texting while driving as a more serious offense, on par with drunken driving.

What do you think? Should police arrest people they see texting and driving, like they would an intoxicated driver? Should those who text and drive have their licenses revoked? Should a person wo is found guilty of killing someone while texting and driving be sentenced to time in prison?

In other words, how big a deal is texting and driving, and how seriously should it be handled by authorities?

In “She Texted About Dinner While Driving. Then a Pedestrian Was Dead,” Nate Schweber and Tracey Tully write about a case in New Jersey in which a woman who was texting and driving was found guilty of vehicular homicide after fatally injuring a pedestrian:

One woman was out for a walk and a taste of fresh air during a break from her job as a scientist at a New Jersey fragrance manufacturer. She and her husband had been trying to get pregnant, and brief bouts of exercise, away from the laboratory’s smells and fumes, were part of that plan.

A second woman was behind the wheel of a black Mercedes-Benz, headed to work as chief executive of a nonprofit in a city that had once lauded her as civic leader of the year for her extensive work with troubled youth.

Their lives collided with devastating speed in the coastal town of Keansburg just before 8:20 on a Wednesday morning, leaving the woman out for a walk fatally injured and the driver facing a charge of vehicular homicide, accused of texting while driving.

On Friday, a jury found the driver, Alexandra Mansonet, guilty of vehicular homicide in a case that was believed to be the first time a New Jersey jury was asked to apply a 2012 law that places texting while driving on par with drunken driving.

The case has focused attention on the nationwide crisis of distracted driving, as well as how rare and difficult prosecutions can be.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • First, have you ever texted while driving? Or, have you ever seen friends or family members text and drive? Do you see why it’s dangerous? Do you think it should be illegal everywhere?

  • Do you think Alexandra Mansonet’s verdict is fair? If you were a member of the jury, what considerations would you weigh when deciding whether she should be found guilty of vehicular homicide?

  • Steven D. Altman, Ms. Mansonet’s lawyer, stated, “It’s going to be very difficult for her to deal with the fact that at sentencing she could be incarcerated for something we are all guilty of doing on a daily basis.” What do you think of his line of argument, that a harsh punishment, like a possible sentence of up to 10 years in prison, is unfair because texting while driving is so common?

  • The article states that pedestrian deaths in the United States approached a 30-year high last year. What do you think can be done to reverse that trend? Explain your reasons.

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.