A 22-year-old Florida woman is still waiting to hear if she will be charged with vehicular homicide after she crashed into a vehicle in 2011, killing one of the passengers. The 22-year-old admitted she was texting before the accident, which led to her swaying into oncoming traffic and hitting the vehicle.
There are numerous aspects to this fatal car accident that have legal implications. The first is the most obvious -- the texting driver. Florida is one of only six states to not have a ban of any kind on texting while driving. So, while the woman's actions are not technically "illegal," she could still be in trouble for distracted driving.
Which brings us to the matter of police deciding whether the 22-year-old's actions were "careless" or "reckless:" it may seem like semantics, but depending on what word is used, the woman could be in a little or a lot of trouble. Careless driving amounts to a mistake by the driver, and such a designation means the at-fault driver will escape severe punishment.
But reckless driving, as one Florida traffic officer put it, "means I don't give a damn what I'm doing. I don't care about that. I don't care about this. I'm going to drive the way I want."
Careless charges involve fines and driving classes; reckless ones involve extensive jail sentences.
Given the lack of a texting while driving ban and the mounting cases of fatal accidents involving such circumstances, our state will likely reconsider the prospective law soon. Last year, there were more than 25,000 car accidents in Florida that involved a distracted driver. Yes, many of these do not involve a texting driver -- but with the proliferation of cellphones, these types of accidents are becoming more and more common.
Even if the 22-year-old is not given the harshest charge, the family of the 40-year-old could pursue civil action against the young woman. Given her admission of guilt regarding distracted driving, they would have a legitimate wrongful death case. It isn't about the money that can be won from such a lawsuit, though that does help pay for the numerous expenses created by such a fatal accident. Instead, the lawsuit is about earning a sense of justice for the family's lost loved one, as well as bringing closure to this unfortunate incident.
Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal, "Texting a factor in fatal Flagler crash," Frank Fernandez, Dec. 8, 2012