As safety advocates and parents continue to preach the dangers of texting while driving, teenagers continue to test the texting laws to the detriment and harm of everyone else. Last week, Justin Wallace, a 19 year old Connecticut man, showed up in Superior Court to be formally charged with a host of minor crimes arising out of his texting while driving hit & run fiasco with a pedestrian.

In the early evening of July 24, Lori Walsh was walking single file with her dog and two children down Tanner Marsh Road. At the same time, Wallace was driving his father’s 1997 tan Toyota Camry in the same direction as the mother and children were walking. Wallace was sending and receiving text messages on his cell phone as he drove down the road. He knew it was against the law but didn’t think he would get caught.

Then his car’s passenger side mirror suddenly struck Lori Walsh, knocking her off her feet and onto the shoulder of the road. Wallace knew that he had hit something substantial, but he chose to keep driving, instead of acting like a reasonable human being and stopping to see what he had hit. Wallace told investigators that he thought he had hit a bush. With the fold-back style mirrors on a Camry, this story strains credibility. Hitting someone in a car, even if only with a side mirror, makes a huge noise like you just hit a tree.

Fortunately, Ms. Walsh survived the impact, though she did suffer serious injuries. What is almost as unfortunate is that the Connecticut law that prohibits texting while driving, just like the North Carolina law and others around the country, fails to impose a penalty that does anything other than lightly slap the offender on the wrist.

And for a first time offender, which this teenager is, the charge will likely be dropped if his father will buy him a “hands free device.” There is actually a provision in the law that provides for such a dismissal. The penalty for violating the statute at issue is a mere $100 fine.

As I have discussed in previous posts on texting and driving, the penalty for this deadly safety violation needs to be severe. In this author’s opinion, the penalty should require mandatory jail time. Perhaps not years, but at least 30 days in the county lock-up. Such a law would get teenagers’ and their parents’ attention. What about the parent who owns and pays for the phone each month? The law should also mandate that the parent be charged with aiding and abetting.

There are numerous strategies that parents can employ to educate and deter their teens from texting and driving. Many of these strategies are listed in my prior posts. If you are a parent of a teenager, and you are concerned that your teen may be texting while driving, and even if you do not think your teen is texting while driving, you have a responsibility to know.

You have a responsibility as a parent and as a public citizen to know whether your teen is violating this serious safety law. You can find out by noting the times when your teen is driving, and then checking the texting section of the monthly billing statement to see if texts are being sent or received during these times. The responsibility starts with the parent who gives and/or pays for the phone.

While I do not agree with everything that Dr. Phil says on his show, his point in his upcoming show certainly hits the mark:

At Davis Law Group, we continue seeing a rise in the number of head-on collisions caused by teenagers and adults who are texting while driving. When someone violates this law and as a result causes a wreck and seriously injures someone, they have both criminal and civil worries. We help people on the civil side and attempt to recover reasonable monetary damages to help compensate them for their harms and losses.