Posted by: Joelle Burnette | January 11, 2013

More jail time for drexting?


(Courtesy of Rock Center with Brian Williams)

Tonight on Rock Center with Brian Williams, I watched Kate Snow’s story about how there are people who believe the current punishment for killing someone should be more severe in cases wherein drivers are texting (I’m calling it “drexting”) on their phones when they run down unsuspecting victims.

The story focused on some people who were killed, and some who sustained massive, life-changing injuries. They also flashed through some cases across the country, including one that occurred in my town. They showed the Sonoma State University freshman who ran down a mother and her child; the 2-year-old girl died from her injuries and the mother required several surgeries and a long recovery.

Oddly enough, I had to make a trip over to SSU this afternoon. Just as I turned onto campus, there were two cars lined up to merge onto the main road into town. A pickup truck (campus security, I believe) pulled up behind the last stopped car and shouted an order through the truck’s loud-speaker.

“Get off the phone!” sternly instructed the truck’s occupant. I smiled, appreciative of the school’s effort to prevent any more of its students from repeating a tragic page from our town’s recent history. Surely, the school doesn’t need more of that kind of press.

I agree our culture needs an attitude adjustment about the dangers associated with using a phone while driving; an adjustment similar to the now decades-old transformation of opinion about drunk driving. Still, while there should be more severe punishment (more than a few days in jail), there will always be those people who want more punishment, more jail time, regardless of the circumstances.

In the case of someone being killed, I wish only to remind those surviving families, adding years upon years of punishment won’t bring back a loved one who has died or been killed.

When my sister was killed as a passenger in a car, the police wanted my parents to press charges against the driver: someone who was one of my sister’s closest friends. There were accusations and suspicions about the driver having taken drugs (without my sister’s or family’s knowledge) which may have impaired her driving ability that night.

In the end, my mom and dad lost a daughter, I grew up without my sister, and my parents didn’t want to press charges. They didn’t think it would have changed anything; certainly, not my sister’s life story. The young woman who had driven that night walked away with a broken bone that healed. I’m told her mind and spirit never recovered and generally destroyed her life. I believe my sister would not have desired that outcome for anyone.

Surely, the young SSU woman who killed the toddler on Snyder Lane will never forget what she has done. It doesn’t matter if she knew these people prior to the incident. She will never forget she killed a child, nor will she forget how her drexting has forever changed a family that remains behind to mourn and heal.

The pain from such a loss never goes away; it only lessens over time.

So, did that SSU woman get enough of a punishment? I’m not the one to judge, but I do believe there were gray areas in the case.

Before you stop reading because you assume I am a cold-hearted bitch for explaining the following information, in the midst of community benefits and fundraisers for the family, I was glad to find out I wasn’t the only one in our community that thought the mother had to take some of the responsibility for her choices that night. One of the most vocal opinions was in our daily paper. So, here goes…

I know the spot where the mother was crossing the street. It’s a busy thoroughfare and notorious for cars speeding down the roadway. First, it was odd this mother had her toddler at the park at night. (What do you think of when someone is going to a playground at night? Hmm. Okay, maybe I reported on police stories for too long, but it’s a bit suspicious, or at least odd.) And more confusing is why she would step into the roadway (crosswalk, or not) without waiting for the oncoming car to stop (or at least, show signs of slowing down)…be sure to make eye contact with a driver before stepping off the curb. Moreover, anyone who has children likely will tell you, when they cross (especially) busy streets with a toddler, either the child is seated in a stroller, or held in their arms. Parents know, toddlers easily slip free from the hand of an adult; crossing a busy road is the last place you want them to escape your grasp. There, and maybe someplace like the top of Yosemite Falls.

Phew. Okay; enough about that. I’m just glad to get it off my chest. Just remember, no matter who is at fault, I still feel terribly for the family that must wake up every morning the remainder of their lives absent a beautiful little girl. And yes, as well, I feel sorry for the SSU woman who will be haunted by her actions for the rest of her days.

There she was, starting off her college career and stepping into her adult life, when bam! (bad choice, but you get it)…her life will never be the same. She left SSU and will end up where? Who knows. I hope she makes it count in exchange for the stolen life of a child who will never experience all the milestones her parents had dreamed about. In the end, it’s up to the toddler’s family to forgive the woman; there’s no amount of jail time that can change that fact.

Regardless of your thoughts on jail time, please, stop drexting and “Get off the phone!”

Click here if you’d like to see the Rock Center story.


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