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Man Gets 5 Years For Texting Fatality

Texting while driving.
Flickr user: [SiK-photo]
By Jeff Deminski

An emotional moment took place in court on Friday as Devin O’Niel was sentenced to 5 years in prison for a fatal crash that happened in part because he was texting while driving. The victim’s son stood and confronted O’Niel. “I get to spend the rest of my life without any parents because of what you did.” Samuel Oltmans went on to tell the 18 year old he hopes he spends his time in prison “trying to think about what you took and what you can do to try to balance that out when you get out.”

O’Niel told him he was truly sorry and that he’ll carry the guilt with him every second of every day for the rest of his life.

The emotions didn’t end there. Superior Court Judge Robert Reed, in a loud emotional outburst from the bench, called the case a tragedy which illustrates the dangers of texting while driving and implored people to stop doing it. “Eleven of you will die in this country every day because of texting and driving! For God’s sake, stop it.”

Actually, his numbers are off. According to the CDC, 9 people die every day from the overall umbrella category of ‘distracted driving’, not necessarily texting while driving. The CDC’s website lists distracted driving as everything from talking on a phone to texting to using navigation devices to even eating.

Also, Devin O’Niel had come from a party before the fatal crash where he was drinking beer. Then while texting at the wheel, he crossed over the yellow line and ran head on into Sam Oltmans mother, killing her.

While the judge’s numbers may have been off, his heart was certainly in the right place. Texting while driving is all three forms of driving distraction; the visual, the manual, and the cognitive, and is therefore one of the most dangerous and avoidable things you can do on the road. New Jersey recently stiffened the penalties for things such as texting while driving. Will it be enough to break people’s love affair with this technology? Probably not.

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