Mike Kueber's Blog

December 1, 2012

Texting while driving

Filed under: Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 7:19 pm
Tags: , ,

An article in today’s San Antonio Express-News reported that two pedestrians were killed on a sidewalk yesterday afternoon when a woman veered off the street and over the curb.  There is no suspected involvement of alcohol, but texting is strongly suspected.  According to the deputy sheriff investigating the accident, they will obtain the woman’s phone records, and if cell-phone usage is indicated, she could be charged with manslaughter, a second-degree felony. 

Because I believe there is a distinction between ordinary negligence (you are responsible for money damages) and criminal negligence (you might go to prison), this talk of criminality seemed like an overreaction.  Drivers have always done careless things – speeding, shaving, applying make-up, changing your music – but there was never an effort to put them in jail after their carelessness causes an injury to another person.

That all changed with MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  That organization, through an interminable, vitriolic campaign against drivers under the influence of alcohol (DUI), has buffaloed virtually every political entity into treating intoxicated drivers as evil people who need to be put away. 

As I read the on-line comments to the Express-News article, I was surprised to see how much the MADD-thinking has permeated American culture.  The great majority of the commenters expressed anger and hostility toward the negligent woman driver, and several argued that texting driving was worse than drunken driving.  The consensus – lock her up.

Under Texas law, manslaughter means recklessly causing someone’s death, and a jury is responsible for deciding whether negligence was so severe that it amounts to recklessness.  Historically, and much to the chagrin of prosecutors and the media, juries have been reluctant to put drunk drivers in prison, and I am hopeful that juries retain their good judgment and common sense. 

The commenters to the Express-News article – perhaps they are a group of outliers who would have been sitting in the Coliseum screaming for blood.



  1. Mike,

    I completely agree with your assessment. The worst example of the move to incarcerate everyone for negligent acts has been the move for prosecutors to try as criminals people, like grandparents, who run over a grandchild because they failed to see them as they backed their car. These are cases where criminal charges will neither deter the crime nor punish the person more than what they are already punished.

    Comment by Robert Icenhauer-Ramirez — December 2, 2012 @ 3:15 am | Reply

    • Robert, you ounce questioned why so many poor and middle-class conservatives voted against their economic interest by supporting low taxes for rich people. I wonder if your position is influenced, possibly subconsciously, by your career as a defense attorney.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — December 2, 2012 @ 5:08 am | Reply

  2. i have mixed thoughts/feelings. too me a crime requires intent and nobody texting intends to kill, they just want to communicate. still, how can you not know the danger. my round trip commute is 135 miles each day. seeing a vehicle (more on this) on IH 10 changing speed, or weaving, or both is a daily event. Weekly we see a vehicle ranging as much as from 50 mph to 85 mph within a mile. And by weaving I mean from one shoulder to the opposite shoulder – inlcuding hitting the grass!!! The scariest vehicle – a freaking 18 wheeler all over the road…


    Comment by q — December 2, 2012 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

  3. […] recently blogged about criminalizing texting while driving and suggested that government was getting too […]

    Pingback by Why doesn’t government do something about drowsy driving? « Mike Kueber's Blog — December 8, 2012 @ 9:43 pm | Reply

  4. Agreed. I’m glad MADD is actively pursing drunk drivers, but there are bigger issues in play when it comes to other forms of distraction or intoxication…

    Comment by Charlie Naegle — October 29, 2013 @ 4:46 pm | Reply

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