Texas has light rules regarding cell phone use behind the wheel. It is not legal to text and drive in a school crossing, and there are laws against novice drivers using cell phones behind the wheel. But other than that, seeminlgy it is is legal to use your cell phone behind the wheel.
However, a judge sent a loud message outside the boundaries of Texas when he charged a Jeri Montgomery, a 24 year old woman and sentenced her to 30 days in jail, 10 years probation and ordered her to pay a $10,000 fine for criminally negligent homicide. Additionally, Montgomery was sentenced to cover the cost of the funeral of the person who was killed in the accident. Montgomery also cannot drive until further notice, must write a 1,000 word essay suitable for publication in a school newspaper and 400 hours of public service.
She wasn't even on the phone at the time of the wreck but she was tried as a distracted driver. She had been on a call seconds before she caused a 3 car accident. Just prior to the wreck she hung up the phone, made an illegal lane change trying to get on the highway. The terrible result was a 3 car accident and the fatality of a 25 year old man.
The woman's father stated “There's a precedent that's been set here that is going to affect all of you,” he said. “Where does it stop? My daughter has been punished for a law that doesn't exist.”
So here is the take away from this blog post: Regardless of city and state cell phone laws, if you cause an accident and take a life your fate could rest in the hands of a judge. It seems likely that Mongomery will appeal the judges ruling, but for the foreseeable future her life will be spent with lawyers, and in court rooms reliving the bad decision she made which caused a three car collision and resulted in a fatality. Even if the ruling is reversed Montgomery has to live with the fact that she killed a man for the rest of her life. That would be a terrible emotion to carry.
Each day on Twitter people tweet "It is the last day I can LEGALLY text and drive, so I'm going to tweet all day." Or "My state passed a texting & driving law, but that doesn't include tweeting. LOL!!" Some people consider texting and driving laws a joke. The old "Catch me if you can" mentality kicks in for some. But this court case is no joke. It is going to live on and sets a HUGE precedent for other judges to call on when making a decision in a distracted driving case.
Understand that law or no law, if you reach for your phone while you are driving you are a distracted driver, and the results could be severe. Just ask Jeri Montgomery.