Late last year, Kimberly Davis, 21, hit a bicyclist while driving and texting near Koroit in western Victoria, Australia, causing the cyclist to suffer a spinal fracture that nearly paralyzed him and required a three month hospital stay. While serious injuries due to driving while texting are an all-too-common occurrence, what garnered media attention in this case was Davis’s shockingly callous reaction when being interviewed by police two days after the accident:
“I just don’t care because I’ve already been through a lot of bull**** and my car is like pretty expensive and now I have to fix it,” Davis complained, according to the Warnambool Standard. “I’m kind of pissed off that the cyclist has hit the side of my car. I don’t agree that people texting and driving could hit a cyclist. I wasn’t on my phone when I hit the cyclist.”
Contrary to Davis’s denial, cell phone records showed that Davis used her phone 44 times during her drive, and sent and received 22 text messages to seven different phones. The last text message was received 51 second before she called triple-0 (the Australian 911) to report the collision.
While she reported the collision, she pulled over 300 feet up the road and refused to offer help to the cyclist, who suffered a fractured vertebra which nearly severed his spinal cord, as well as a broken toe and lacerations to his face and body. “The surgeons said nine out of 10 people would be in a wheelchair,” the cyclist’s wife told reporters.
Davis, who had a provisional driver’s license, was charged with 47 counts of dangerous driving, to which she pled guilty. However, many in the community were disappointed in the sentence: Davis was fined $4,500 (about $4,200 US) and her license was suspended for nine months. “I went to court looking for blood and got a nick,” the cyclist’s wife said. “I can’t believe my husband has never been offered an apology-not so much as a text message.”
Texting while driving is on the rise, and according to some studies can be even more dangerous than drunk driving. Distracted driving accidents claimed 3,331 lives in the United States in 2011, and the leading form of distracted driving is texting while driving. The NHTSA reports that texting while driving is responsible for approximately 1.6 million accidents in the United States every year-that is about 25% of all driving accidents.
While the case of Kimberly Davis may be an extreme one, it takes a certain amount of callousness for anyone to text while driving given what we know today. Unfortunately, as demonstrated in the leniency of Davis’s sentence, victims will largely have to rely on the civil justice system to hold drivers like Davis accountable for endangering the public with this reckless behavior.