Rumor or Not… PSA

There was some shocked whispering among Good4 and her friends this past holiday afternoon. Apparently a former classmate hit a man while texting and driving and the poor fellow is in critical condition. That wasn’t really what horrified them, though. What horrified them was that she had to be bailed out of jail for yom tov. Crime? Reckless endangerment, possibly manslaughter. Sentence? They were murmuring about years.

Or something like that. I’m not sure how reliable Good4 and her friends are as news sources. But that’s not the point.

There’s a vague, perhaps smug assumption that since we’re all good moral people who don’t mug people on street corners, drink and drive, or sell drugs, we’ll never land in jail or otherwise rub shoulders with the sort of people who do. Sure, we may rip CDs we don’t own or download textbooks or speed, run stop signs, and not declare every bit of cash income on our tax returns, but that’s small stuff and doesn’t hurt anyone – at least not anyone we know – and not very much.

I don’t remember the context, but some enthusiastic teacher in my past hammered into my head the phrase “Adam mu’ad li’olam.” A person is always responsible for his/her actions. So, for example, if you’re in control of a couple of tons of metal and glass machinery capable of reaching high speeds and acquiring large amounts of momentum – which means it’s not so easily stopped or redirected – you are responsible to take care that it doesn’t harm anyone. If you’re in a congested area where the situation can change in a moment, you are expected to take extra special care in directing your heavy machinery.

And no, it is not freakin’ cool to text, post, write, type, dial, read, or otherwise distract yourself from your windows and mirrors with a phone, BlackBerry, iPod, iPad, iTouch or any other gadget web-enabled or not. You (yes, innocent lil ol’ you) could wind up being guilty of causing someone’s death.

Homicide.

Yep, killing. Comes with a jail sentence too. Cool, no?

One thing I wonder: what was her text about? Was it worth it?

PS: This one out of Australia courtesy of SiBaW (warning: it’s graphic, but hey, that’s life. Or could be.)

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30 thoughts on “Rumor or Not… PSA

  1. I know the story- and the girl. She did something stupid and reckless but I still feel bad for her. She has to live with what she has done for the rest of her life and there is no greater punishment than that- although it wouldn’t satisfy the relatives of the victim (understandably). But if you search her name, and read the comments (even on yehivah world and voisizneis), the general public would like to see her suffer a very long prison sentence- or worse. However, the purpose of jail is to 1) rehabilitate 2) remove criminals from the streets to prevent them from committing the crime again. I seriously doubt the girl would ever text and drive again s jail is not necessary. And for a sheltered girl (Jewish or not)- jail can be a death sentence.

  2. and btw- it is not “homicide”- the most she can be charged with (if the man dies, right now he is brain dead but on life support)is vehicular manslaughter. In order to have committed murder one needs to have planned the thing.

  3. Homicide is defined (non-legally) as causing the death of another, purposely or not. I didn’t use it in a legal sense, which may be different.

    Wales? They use “mate” in Wales? I thought that was an Aussie thing.

    Sarah – I think the public wants a public example made of her for other people. Fair or not, they’ve got a Guy to burn and she’s it. And one doesn’t really have the right to do stupid and reckless things that endanger other people. If you do, you have to deal with the wrath of those other people, no matter how irrational. Something worth keeping in mind in all human interaction.

  4. British people today use both “mate” and “eh.” Interestingly, Australia took the “mate” whilst Canada took the “eh.” Ah, good old colonial times. There are loads of these adverts in the UK. They’re all mostly done by Think! Road Safety. Here are some:

    1) Pay attention whilst crossing the road (shot entirely on a mobile phone camcorder) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AihJ-JGTmsA

    2) Always wear a seatbelt whilst in your car: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsp-nrf_8KQ&feature=related
    3) Another always wear a seat belt whilst in your car: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-8PBx7isoM&NR=1&feature=fvwp

    4) Don’t go even a litte bit over the speed limit whilst driving: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FS5f73EHRhA

    5) An old “don’t speed” advert: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qm8yyl9ROEM

    6) Finally, collection of road safety ads someone stuck together: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMXkinfyV8k&feature=related

    7) On a brighter note, something entirely unrelated: A sloth falling asleep whilst crossing a road. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4oNReBV_Mw&feature=related

  5. At least texting is illegal in NY … here there’s nothing stopping these people. And just wondering, if it were the other way around (frum person killed ch”v), would anyone be “feeling bad” for the driver?

  6. And just wondering, if it were the other way around (frum person killed ch”v), would anyone be “feeling bad” for the driver?

    Thank you #6. I hope everyone reads and rereads this comment until the point sinks in.

  7. anon- don’t you know that jews are always innocent, even if they’re on death row (presumably deservedly), and we need to be mispallel for the din of the corrupt malchus to turn out in their favor? “they” are the enemy, and “we” are above the law! it is a mitzvas aseh to scam “the system.”

    *sigh* you can take the jew out of poland…to be a little bit fair, this is all part of national PSTD. ה’ ירחם עלינו.

  8. GP- who said anything about innocent? The girl is clearly at fault. But being a Jew, it is impossible not to sympathize with her. Every Jew is supposed to be like your brother/sister and therefore it is only right to feel bad when a fellow Jew is in trouble. And again, that is not to say anyone is ABOVE the law. However, many people seem to be eager for her to get the maximum punishment (or even a punishment stricter than the law allows). And for all those haters- can you really say you have never been distracted while driving? If not due to a text message, than due to a heated conversation, eating, drinking….? Few people can honestly say that they are perfect drivers- always keeping 100% focused on the road, never forgetting to put on a blinker, running a red or a stop sign, going above the speed limit…
    You should just be lucky that YOU never got into a major accident. And that is all it is really, luck.

  9. Arei Miklat, anyone?

    If she was paying perfect attention to the road, and the guy came out of nowhere, there would be no need to bail her out of anywhere. But she did behave recklessly. And someone else had to pay. And we had a system for that once upon a time – the killer (inadvertent, but still guilty)had to run for it, hoping for no revenge homicide, and remain in a specific city until the kohen gadol died.

    Feeling bad didn’t quite cover it.

  10. Princess Lea- I think you made a good point about Arei Miklat. The thing is, however, the only people the killer was running from were the relatives of the deceased- not the general public who were determined to see “justice” done. Secondly- arei miklat may have been secluded but they were far more comfortable than any jail cell- a much lighter punishment than what people are calling for now for the girl. Secondly, I agree with you that “Feeling bad doesn’t quite cover it”, I was only saying that the feelings she has to live with is a punishment in itself- but yes, some other penalty should be awarded. All I am saying is that it doesn’t have to be and SHOULD NOT be (prolonged) jail time. Community service and a suspended license sounds right to me.

  11. Sorry GP and Bad4 but in this case there is good reason to feel bad for the driver. Texting while driving is stupid and dangerous. But so is answering your phone, going even 1 mile above the speed limit, shaving, looking at the mirror to check if your makeup is good (putting on makeup) looking at the dashboard to change the radio station, looking towards your crying/screaming child in the back, changing the CD and countless other things that many, many people do every day. There is a clear difference between committing a crime that “everyone” commits in some way, being somehow distracted by driving, and a serious crime that requires some sort of intent. This story should serve as a wake-up call to all of us about limiting our distractions – but this girl should not be subject to such flip statements such as “Yep, killing. Comes with a jail sentence too. Cool, no?”
    Take a minute and think about something you have gotten away with but could have ended up in a much worse place but for an extra second and then cry for this girl who will have to face the rest of her life with the blood of someone on her shoulders, a criminal record and the results of the civil lawsuit, all because of a moment of being distracted.

  12. Princess Leah — Ir Miklat is for “some small amount of negligence”, such as forgot to check how well the axe head was fastened to the handle. It doesn’t work for gross negligence (walking around with a knife stuck out in a pitch-black night). I don’t know where texting-while-driving falls.

  13. I would just like to point out a sentence in the original post- Bad4 wrote “Sure, we may… speed, run stop sign..but that’s small stuff and doesn’t hurt anyone – at least not anyone we know – and not very much.”
    I’m sorry but speeding and running stop signs is just as reckless and negligent as texting while driving (and while I do not know the statistics I am willing to bet that they are more frequently the cause of accidents).
    So, yes “if you’re in control of a couple of tons of metal and glass machinery capable of reaching high speeds and acquiring large amounts of momentum – which means it’s not so easily stopped or redirected – you are responsible to take care that it doesn’t harm anyone”= and that includes speeding and running stop signs and all the examples Anon 99 has provided.
    If you have done ANYTHING to divert your full attention from driving you can now redirect your judgement from the girl who actually had the misfortune of hitting someone and take a look at yourself. Because it could have (easily) been you.

  14. Sarah – sympathy, yes. Of course one can have sympathy for the driver. But what’s troubling is that there seems to be MORE sympathy for the driver than for the victim. Regardless of religious affiliation of either, that’s offensive.

  15. re those other distractions- אין הכי נמי!

    agreed!! i drive often, and in the dark, and often think to myself “what if i hadn’t seen this person
    running across the street assuming i see him”? it scares me to no end. while sitting in traffic during the aftermath of the tornado the other day, i was furious that we were still obeying traffic signals in stopped traffic when no cars were coming in the other direction. no sooner had i thought that then an older man came limping across the crosswalk when it was his light.

    texting while driving, if it’s not מזיד גמור, is קרוב למזיד. plus, it is not at all certain that random zealots were not permitting to kill the רוצח בשוגג.

  16. tesyaa- I agree with you completely and am sorry if my posts suggested otherwise. What happened to the man is horrible and my heart goes out to him and his family. That being said, I don’t think (and maybe I am being naive) anyone has to be told to feel for the victim- that comes naturally. People do, however, need to realize that the driver is in a position to be sympathized as well and that is what I am making a case for.

  17. Sarah: you missed the sarcasm in the statement: “Sure, we may… speed, run stop sign..but that’s small stuff and doesn’t hurt anyone – at least not anyone we know – and not very much.” Texting goes in the list. It’s just a small thing… doesn’t hurt anyone… usually. Except when it does.

    Also, I’d draw a line between eating while driving and texting while driving. It’s pretty easy to feed yourself a sandwich while keeping an eye on the road. But if you hit a guy who is sitting on the side of the road not moving, you cannot possibly be looking out your windshield.
    Changing CDs, on the other hand – that’s actually been correlated highly with accidents involving deaths. That is, any reaching motion in a car is more likely to lead to death than almost anything you can do with a cell phone. But that wasn’t the point of this particular post.

    Watching that sloth video corrodes my admittedly weak Darwinist convictions. How on earth could such a slow, ungainly, sleepy, and apparently dumb creature have lasted in the evolutionary gladiators ring?

  18. I don’t believe this girl deserves a jail sentence but I would apply that to most non violent offenders.

    This country sorely lacks some creative alternative punishments.

  19. Armchair Talmudist: Agreed. This is no loose ax handle. And since we had no concept of prison, merely a temporary holding cell, the other penalty option would not be pretty.

    In the age of iPods, I thought we were over CDs.

    Perhaps I come from a family of paranoid drivers, but I’m not usually in a vehicle with anyone who drives so recklessly by putting on mascara or munching a sandwich (chips, yes, but not a sandwich). Unless we’re easily distracted and plan accordingly.

    Planning a typed text message, with even bad grammar, takes more time with eyes away from the road then glancing in the mirror to check on a baby in the back seat or making sure lipstick isn’t on one’s teeth. Isn’t that what red lights are for?

  20. Another thought:

    A couple of weeks ago a teenager crashed her SUV in front of my house. I think she was texting. What if I had been standing there? My baby niece?

    If the situation were reversed, and it was a gentile 18 year old who had killed a Jew – would we be advocating understanding? We can’t expect different penalties from the government because one is a Jew and one is not.

  21. I am getting a little tired of people saying that we are only asking for sympathy because the driver is frum. This has nothing to with who the driver was and has nothing to do with who got hit – but the fact that texting while driving is something that while absolutely should not be done, unfortunately has permeated itself in society in a way that it is done just as frequently as any of the above things. At this juncture of society, until the governments take the same steps that were taken in the 60 and 70 about drinking and driving, the girl should not spend one day in jail, nor should anyone else that is a first time offender. She will be sued, she will have other punishment – but jail serves no purpose in this case, not even deterrence for the next person.
    Princess – all it takes is a second, so any of the things including looking down at the bag of chips can lead to an accident.

  22. I’ve read this after reading headlines about yesterdays funeral of another 13y/o girl killed in the reckless car driving. I wonder how many more accidents like that we need in our community before people will start realizing how dangerous it is to violate rules made to keep people safe…

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