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Part I: Unusual penalty after fatal distracted driving crash

In the fall of 2014, a 23-year-old was driving her car when her cellphone rang. The same scenario likely took place across the United States, with millions of people answering the call without consequence. In this particular instance, however, the young woman who answered the call failed to notice a bicyclist traveling on the side of the road.

The bicyclist — a 35-year-old mother of two — was killed in the collision.


The motorist was sentenced to 90 days in jail, over $15,000 in restitution and two years of probation. In addition, the judge prohibited the driver from owning or using a cellphone for two years.

While the judge acknowledged that the sentence could be difficult to enforce, the hope is that the penalty will help change people’s attitudes about distractions when behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, many motorists do not recognize that using a cellphone while driving could have serious consequences. In fact, a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego found that college students have perhaps unwarranted confidence in their ability to multitask while behind the wheel.

Nevertheless, the study revealed that those college students would likely change their distracted driving habits if the laws penalizing such behavior were strict enough.

While this sentence may not become commonplace across the country, stronger penalties are being instituted to deter people from using their cellphones while behind the wheel. In our next post, we will discuss the laws regarding distracted driving in California and the reason they are so important for maintaining our safety on the road. 

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