At the risk of invoking the wrath of some readers who disagreed with my proposal to jail texting truck drivers a few weeks ago, I hereby applaud the British Crown Court for sending a texting young driver off to jail where, presumably, cell phones are unavailable. I am sad for her and her family, far sadder for the victim and her family and still angry that such stupidity is tolerated in the U.S. Here’s the story from Oxford via the New York Times November 2:
Inside the imposing British Crown Court here, Phillipa Curtis, 22, and her parents cried as she was remanded for 21 months to a high-security women’s prison, for killing someone much like herself. The victim was Victoria McBryde, an up-and-coming university-trained fashion designer.
Ms. Curtis had plowed her Peugeot into the rear end of Ms. McBryde’s neon yellow Fiat, which had broken down on the A40 Motorway, killing Ms. McBryde, 24, instantly. The crash might once have been written off as a tragic accident. Ms. Curtis’s alcohol level was zero. But her phone, which had flown onto the road and was handed to the police by a witness, told a story that — under new British sentencing guidelines — would send its owner to jail.
In the hour before the crash, she had exchanged nearly two dozen messages with at least five friends, most concerning her encounter with a celebrity singer she had served at the restaurant where she worked.
They are filled with the mangled spellings and abbreviations that typify the new lingua franca of the young. “LOL did you sing to her?” a friend asks. Ms. Curtis replies by typing in an expletive and adding, “I sang the wrong song.” A last incoming message, never opened, came in seconds before the accident.
With that as evidence, Ms. Curtis was sentenced in February under 2008 British government directives that regard prolonged texting as a serious aggravating factor in “death by dangerous driving” — just like drinking — and generally recommend four to seven years in prison.
There are no winners in this story, only losers and sadder losers. But there could be a small win if it served as a wake-up call anywhere about the fact that driving a car requires two hands and an engaged brain. It is not possible to engage the brain in watchful, decent driving when pieces of it are off somewhere in cyberspace. The only reason why there are not literally thousands of additional casualties every day from the callous stupidity of texting/cellphoning drivers is that other, saner drivers — and cautious pedestrians, who know they are at constant risk — have noticed and managed to avoid them. But texting/cellphoning drivers are outnumbering other, saner drivers at an increasingly alarming rate. They should face jail time.
Victoria McBryde had, herself, been texting her friends before her car broke down. From the side of the road she called her mother, Jennifer Ford, to say she was frightened and worried because the car service company had not appeared.
Ms. Ford told her daughter to make sure the flashers were on and that she was pulled off the road. “She was like, ‘Mom, of course I did these things,’ ” Ms. Ford recalled in an interview.
When she called her daughter back 20 minutes later, no one answered. By that time Victoria McBryde was dead.