At any given daylight moment across America, 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or other devices while driving. A unique ruling in a high profile Clinton County, Michigan case is drawing both praise and criticism. But it’s also highlighting growing frustrations with the issue of distracted driving. Police reports show that defendant Mitzi Nelson was texting on her cell phone when her car hit Jill Byelich, a mother of two and an avid bicyclist, in September. Byelich was wearing a reflective vest and helmet and was riding on the right edge of the road when Nelson’s car struck and killed her.
In court, Nelson pleaded no contest and Judge Stewart McDonald sentenced her to a minimum 90-day jail stay, 150 hours of community service and more than $17,000 in restitution, fines, fees and court costs. She also must speak to 20 driver’s education classes about the dangers of distracted driving and is banned from owning a cell phone during her two-year probation. “I don’t think she has a right to have a cell phone,” Judge Stewart McDonald said at Nelson’s sentencing. “I think it’s a privilege.”
At any given daylight moment across America, upward of 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving – often with tragic results. Statistics show that in 2013, 3,154 people were killed and 424,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Any momentary distraction, including reaching for a ringing phone, dialing or looking at the on-screen caller ID can be dangerous. But texting is particularly risky because it takes the driver’s eyes off the road for an average five seconds. Traveling at 55 miles per hour, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field.
If a distracted driver causes you or someone you love serious injury or loss, you’ll want to enlist the help of an experienced auto accident lawyer. Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell can be reached at 800-251-1111.