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A Stevens Point man has been charged with homicide for causing a fatal car crash because he was checking for text messages while driving.

The criminal complaint reportedly states that the driver was distracted because he had been texting his girlfriend and was checking for text messages when he ran a stop sign, causing a collision with two other vehicles. The driver of one was pronounced dead at the scene according by the Wood County Coroner.

Distracted driving is a huge problem, whether it is due to texting, talking on the phone, using a GPS device, eating, drinking, applying makeup, and all manner of other activities that baffle me as I see these cases in our office. I still shake my head at the case of one of our clients who sustained permanent disability when his motorcycle was struck by a driver who had a bowl of cereal in her lap, and decided to make a slow left turn across the motorcyclist’s path to avoid spilling the milk.

Statistics gathered by the Department of Transportation about 2009 document at least 16% of highway deaths due to distracted driving, and this may be vastly underreported, as investigation may not always reveal the truth about what drivers are up to.

Wisconsin has not gone far enough to protect the public. State law enacted in December 2010 banned texting while driving in Wisconsin, but does not prohibit using the phone or reading text messages. If we are going to get serious about reducing distracted drivers and highway death, a wider ban on distracting activities needs to be passed.

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