Like many of us, I was saddened to read the story of the East Greenwich highway collision that took the life of a young pregnant mother and her child. The collision hit home for me, because it occurred on a stretch of road that I personally travel often with my own family. It also conjured up memories again of past distracted driving tragedies, including a young family friend who died in Johnston whom I previously wrote about. The story is complex and raises questions about crime and punishment. Was it “right” that the Attorney General did not press criminal charges?
At a recent sentencing, the at fault driver pled guilty earlier to traffic violations. The punishment handed down this week was an eight-month loss of license, 100 hours of community service, a fine, and completion of a driver retraining course.
Putting aside the crime and punishment issue, the issue of Rhode Island distracted driving continues to loom as a major issue. This story reminds us that distracted driving can take many forms, including simple inattentiveness to the road.
And as we probably all know by now, two years ago, Rhode Island enacted an anti-texting and driving law: Drivers under the age of 18 are banned from all cellular phone use. And all drivers, regardless of age, are prohibited from text messaging while driving.
Rhode Island being a state where 13.7 percent of the working population commutes to one of two neighboring states, it is interesting to compare how distracted driving laws differ across these borders. Massachusetts drivers, for example, currently face similar restrictions as Rhode Island drivers. Connecticut law, on the other hand, not only prohibits drivers from text messaging, but all hand-held cell phone use is illegal, regardless of the driver’s age. Connecticut also has a general law against distracted driving, meaning engaging in any activity not related to the actual driving of a vehicle (i.e. eating, grooming, etc.)
With public outcry for harsher penalties increasing in cases like that of Servideo, perhaps, as in other states, we will see Rhode Island lawmakers consider stricter legislation to combat this dangerous habit. As a Rhode Island personal injury lawyer, our firm’s mission includes raising public awareness on this important public safety issue.