Did tweeting about speeding on Twitter via mobile phone distract a teen from driving, and therefore cause him to lose control of his car and hit a bicyclist? If the capability to brag via the internet from a mobile device were not available, would this cyclist still be alive today? Is mobile phone usage while driving—texting, email, and social media updates—becoming a weapon against safety with U.S. citizens?
I, like many other Americans, am a smartphone user. I am a busy attorney, husband and father, and with that comes the need to always stay connected. Accessing the internet via my mobile device while driving in my car is tempting, even to me, a law-abiding citizen. Whether I’m on my way to work in my car thinking about a case, wondering about my child’s homework project or checking on the schedule for an exercise class after work, I certainly am tempted to quickly get on my phone to check; after all, I’m in traffic and it’s my downtime so I want to make the most of every moment.
But, guess what? I don’t. I keep my phone turned off while I am driving… Why? Because using a mobile device to text, check the weather, email a potential customer, send a tweet on Twitter, check Facebook, respond to a colleague on LinkedIn, or even respond to an angry commentator on my blog is downright irresponsible.
While I am operating a motor vehicle, I am behind the wheel of a potential weapon that could harm someone. Anything related to the internet can wait. Safety comes first.
That said, I am not happy to report that 18-year-old Cody Hall decided on June 9, 2013 that it was cool to tweet to let all of his followers on Twitter know that he was speeding, and that this bragging was his priority. It took precedence over safety behind the wheel and ended tragically. His 80 mph stint through a 40 mph zone in Dublin (to which he carelessly bragged) caused 58-year-old Diana Hersevoort to lose her life due to a tweet.
Justice is prevailing though… as this incident, that began as a vehicular manslaughter charge, was upgraded to a murder charge in part because he boasted about it on Twitter. Brian Welch, a supervisor of the homicide unit at the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office who is not involved in this case, noted:
in most circumstances, fatal crashes result in murder charges when the suspect was recklessly fleeing police or was a drunken driver with previous convictions, not because of something like a Twitter feed.