An instance of texting while driving resulted in a conviction for vehicular homicide in New Jersey on Friday, Nov. 22. Alexandra Mansonet, 50, could go to prison for up to 10 years for her role in a two-car accident that resulted in the death of a pedestrian.
Mansonet was driving in Monmouth County when prosecutors alleged she was distracted by a text from her former sister-in-law. The momentary distraction is said to be the reason Mansonet’s vehicle rear-ended a vehicle that was stopped at a crosswalk. The impact of the crash knocked the stopped car into 39-year-old Yuwen Wang, who was crossing a street.
Wang was an employee of nearby International Flavors and Fragrances plant and was talking a short break to walk the Henry Hudson Trail when the accident occurred. She later died from her injuries.
Mansonet denied she was responding to the text message in her testimony in Superior Court. She claimed to be turning off her windshield wipers and turning on her car’s defroster when the accident occurred. Police uncovered evidence of the texting activity after Mansonet allowed officers to search her phone.
Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni is hoping the case’s outcome will send a message to other NJ drivers on the importance of not texting and driving. “Texting while driving puts drivers and pedestrians in grave danger, and we are hopeful that the jury’s verdict will reinforce the public’s awareness of this risk,” he said in a statement.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that, in 2017, phones were implicated in 401, or 14 percent, of the total of 3166 distraction-related road fatalities. In New Jersey, driver inattention was a contributing factor in nearly 800,000 motor vehicle crashes between 2012 and 2016.
New Jersey isn’t the only state trying to make an example of drivers who are distracted by their phones while driving. In New York, prosecutors sentenced a truck driver to 4.5 years for striking and killing a woman while he filled out an online survey on his phone. While it is important that such risky behavior carries serious consequences, the available data seems to indicate it is thus far ineffective at curbing it.
A ticket for “distracted driving” in NJ can cost between $200 and $400 for a first offense, $400 and $600 for a second offense, and $600 to $800 for a third or subsequent offense. Drivers can also face a license suspension following a third ticket, as well as receive 3 points on his/her license.