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TEXTING KILLS



Published: Sun, September 19, 2010 @ 12:01 a.m.

Related: Anti-texting crusader stops at YSU to sign up recruits

By jeanne starmack

starmack@vindy.com

struthers

Dave Muslovski was out for his usual walk as the day dawned June 17.

The 55-year-old businessman, owner of Iron City Wood Products in Campbell, walked often near his Springfield Township home to keep in shape.

He’d lost 160 pounds since September 2009, and he was serious about his healthy new lifestyle.

He wore a fluorescent green shirt with stripes of reflective tape. He walked along the side of rural Middletown Road, facing oncoming traffic. The sun had risen, and he was on his way back to his Unity Road home.

Another Unity Road resident, Whitney Yaeger, 19, was on Middletown Road that morning too. As she was driving — she would later tell an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper — she was texting on her phone.

“She veers off the side of the road just in time to RUN OVER my dad,” Tina Yanssens would later write in a letter to Gov. Ted Strickland, appealing for his help in banning texting while driving in Ohio.

“That is right; she didn’t hit him, she ran over him,” Yanssens continued. “She left tire tracks up his right leg, across his pelvis and up his right arm. He didn’t stand a chance because she fractured his pelvis, pulverized multiple major branches of his right femoral artery, and bruised over 25 percent of his liver.”

He died early that afternoon in St. Elizabeth Health Center.

Yaeger pleaded not guilty June 28; her case is set for a pretrial Jan. 12.

As the case proceeded in Struthers Municipal Court, it raised questions for Muslovski’s family, Yanssens said, including: Why didn’t the Struthers prosecutor, Carol Clemente-Wagner, charge her with a felony for reckless driving instead of a misdemeanor for negligent driving?

Texting while driving is not illegal in Ohio. Yanssens points out, though, that there are two cases in which other prosecutors took a more aggressive track and went for the higher penalty — a maximum of 18 months versus a maximum of six months:

In Washington County, the prosecutor got a felony indictment from a grand jury in July after a man crossed the center line while texting and hit another car. No deaths or disabling injuries resulted from that accident.

In Lucas County, a woman was convicted of a felony after she killed a kindergartner getting off a school bus while groping on the floor of her car for her phone. She appealed that conviction, but she lost.

Along with her questions, there is a quest. Yanssens is working for a ban on

texting while driving in Ohio, believing it will prevent other families from having to go through what hers did.

Her family has formed the David S. Muslovski Charitable Foundation “to educate Ohioans about the dangers of distracted driving,” she said.

“My father had a right to be out there that day, and he had a right to live,” she said. She challenged Yaeger to “give back” by speaking at local schools.

“She should volunteer,” Yanssens said. “Acknowledge what she’s done is wrong, and prevent it from happening to others.”

A relative at the Yaeger residence said Yaeger would not comment.

The foundation is also collecting signatures and lobbying legislators to pass Senate Bill 164, which would ban texting while driving.

However, two local officials said the bill and several others like it in the House and Senate would not affect the change that Yanssen would like to see in cases like Yaeger’s – the filing of the more serious charge of recklessness versus negligence.

Jay Macejko, Youngtown’s prosecutor, is a member of the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission and analyzes bills and the impact they’d have.

All the pending bills make texting – and in some cases talking on a cell phone while driving – illegal. But the penalties would be misdemeanors, not felonies, Macejko said.

Complicating the task of raising texting to the level of recklessness is the law’s definition of what recklessness is — a conscious disregard for safety.

“When you think of negligence, it’s the equivalent of an accident, and sometimes things are just horrible accidents,” he said.

Depending on a person’s state of mind, texting while driving could rise to the level of recklessness, he said.

“It’s a debate we have every day,” he said.

Adding to the complication, said state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-33rd of Canfield, is the difficulty a police officer would have in proving someone was

texting.

If the driver didn’t admit to it, he said, there would have to be a witness – or a phone record.

What about those felony charges in Washington and Lucas counties? The charge in the Lucas County case, in which the woman was groping for her phone on the car floor when she hit a child, was proper, Macejko said. The fact that the woman disregarded a school bus made that an easier call, he contends.

As for the Washington County felony indictment of a 19-year-old man who crossed the center line while texting? Macejko has his doubts about it.

“It’s easier to get an indictment than a conviction,” he said.

Jim Schneider, the Washington County prosecutor who got the indictment, agrees.

“I just decided to present it as a felony because of the ever-increasing problem of texting,” he said. “I may not win that case.”

Schneider says he understands why Struthers Prosecutor Clemente-Wagner would choose not to charge Yaeger with a felony.

Clemente-Wagner said she will not comment on the case because it is pending.

If Yaeger had been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the law would have called for her to be charged with a felony for Muslovski’s death.

Though Yanssens maintains Yaeger should have been tested to determine whether she was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, OSHP trooper Jason Fantone saw no reason for it, said Lt. Chris Heverly of the Canfield Post.

“They’re trained to detect, by looking and talking to them,” Heverly said. “Trooper Fantone’s opinion, after speaking to her at length, was she wasn’t under the influence.”

Could texting while driving ever be considered as serious an offense as driving under the influence?

Yes, and that may be the way to go for Ohio, say Macejko and Schiavoni.

DUI is a misdemeanor until a driver’s fourth offense — or unless he kills or injures someone, Macejko said. Then, a separate statute calls for a felony charge.

“I would be comfortable seeing [texting while driving] at the misdemeanor level for the simple offense,” he said. “If someone is hurt or killed, a separate statute.”

The prevalence of

texting in society, he agreed, speaks to the need for such a statute.

Schiavoni said he doesn’t see any new bills coming out before July, when the state budget is due.

Meanwhile, he said, the Muslovski family is doing a good job getting the word out that texting while driving can cost someone a life.

to donate

To donate to the David S. Muslovski Charitable Foundation, stop at any Huntington Bank branch or mail a check to Tina Yanssens at Iron City Wood Products, 3125 Wilson Ave., Campbell, OH 44405. Make checks out to the foundation.


Comments

1redcent(38 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago


The Ohio House voted March 24 to ban text messaging while driving in Ohio. The Ohio Senate is considering similar legislation.

Current prohibitions:
No statewide limits on cell phone use or text messaging. Toledo, Columbus, Delaware, Belpre and Zanesville are among the Ohio cities that already have banned text messaging while driving

The Pending Ohio legislation is Ohio House Bill 415. It would outlaw text messaging by all drivers in Ohio. Primary offense. $150 fine after six-month warning period. It was approved by the House Public Safety Committee on March 10 and then by the full House on March 24 (86-12 vote). Sent to the Senate. (DeBose, Garland)

http://handsfreeinfo.com/ohio-cell-ph...

http://www.distraction.gov/

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2redcent(38 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago


"Every single time you take your eyes off the road or talk on the phone while you’re driving – even for just a few seconds – you put your life in danger. And you put others in danger too. This kind of behavior is irresponsible – and the consequences are devastating."

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood
Opening Remarks at Distracted Driving Summit
Sept. 30, 2009

DOT, Seventeen, and AAA are challenging teens to create a catchy anti-distracted driving video to promote safe driving and Seventeen's National Two-Second Turnoff Day, scheduled for September 17. The video with the most votes will be featured at the Distracted Driving Summit on September 21, as well as Seventeen.com, AAAexchange.com, and Distraction.gov.

http://youtu.be/szMeDEqgSh4

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3MLC75(528 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

I think there should be a stiff penalty for texting while driving,which includes jail time,if any one is injured.I was hit by a teenage girl,texting while driving.No one was hurt,I saw her coming and swerved to get out of the way.The only damage was my drivers door and side mirror,I was lucky.

Teens are the biggest offenders of texting and talking on cell phones while driving.

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4steelwagon(284 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

What is there to debate on this issue ?
You're not allowed to drink alcohol and drive because alcohol impairs,nobody would argue that.

When you text you take your eyes off the road and that impairs your ability to drive.
Two completly different things you say ?
Both impair the driver and both have caused accidents where the victims have died,both are also willful actions made by the offending driver.

If you must use your phone while driving please pull off the road and keep everybody safe !!!

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5Nunya(1356 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

This is something,..

Along with saying it pains me every time I hear of this tragic instance as well as those of others. To pass a law banning texting while driving should have been immediate. I feel the penalty for texting while driving should be just as severe as that of driving drunk or while in a drug induced stupor. As well as sensible people and responsible drivers shouldn't even have to be told it's totally unwise, unsafe and has to be avoided.

This is an instance where a loving couple made a pact to be together and their mortal bliss was broken by some idiot. The afflicted became a random victim by choice of another's irresponsible behavior and the culprit contends it's an unfortunate accident,.. I see it different.

I see it as murder and committed in a deliberate manner of recklessness. Although it'd still hurt had the drivers vehicle unknowingly malfunctioned or road conditions prompted a loss of control. However, to deliberately engage in something like texting as the means of haphazard homicide is unacceptable as an accident.

See now by anothers actions there's a man who's life was taken and this lady as his loving mate is forced to try to adjust hers without him. As a result of no irresponsibility of neither of the couples actions. Yet they lay victimized totally by someone they didn't know, had done nothing too nor against and had no idea the irresponsible idiot was going to afflict them to become a forced victim of what amounts to as random murder.

That said where along with rendering condolences to this wife, family and friends of the innocent victim. I say legislators should have been proactive to outlaw such a practice as soon as they were aware such a feature was introduced on mobile phones. So to have her have to petition for legislators to act this late. Is a gross disservice to the deceased, his wife, family, friends and public at large.

Lastly, I'm aware that DVD's and TV's has become factory mounted available in vehicles. Which I say should be federally stopped as it willfully creates and facilitates diversion from a drivers attention. Which creates the same hazard. See some people just don't have the sense nor responsible discipline to abstain from becoming engaged in such activity while driving,.. AND NOBODY OWES AN OFFENDER HAVING TO ENDURE SUCH LOSS AS VICTIM BY THAT OFFENDERS EVENTUAL IRREPLACEABLE HAPPENSTANCE INFLICTED BY WILLFULLY IRRESPONSIBLE CONDUCT.

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6southsidedave(4780 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

Operating a motor vehicle requires the utmost attention of the driver. It is not possible to "multi-task" while driving people. Put away the cell phones and laptops until the car is parked, please!

My prayers go out to the family of victim David Muslovski. May he rest in peace.

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7hurrdurr(98 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

It should be a wide-reaching ban which includes I-pod fiddling and other electronic device manipulation. Problem is enforcement. It's pretty difficult to catch someone in the act. After a crash, well that's different... but it's already too late.

As for the man run over on the side of the road, some of the blame does lie with him. Look, it's great he was exercising, but anytime you're walking along side a rural road you're taking a risk. It doesn't matter if you're equipped with reflective material or whatever. It's dangerous. If you want to be safe, go over to the local high school and walk the track or head over to the village of New Middletown and walk the sidewalks.

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8Runner(1 comment)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

i agree with steelwagon. where is the debate here? how many people need to be killed or injured and how many lives have to be ruined before stiff laws are put in place to protect us? this whole issue infuriates me!

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9kfarley13(16 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

WAKE UP AMERICA !!!!!! There is NO debate about this issue. This is why our country is in the shape that it is. Our lawmakers are wimps and cannot make up their minds. I guess we will have to see how many people are killed or injured before any law is passed.

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10city_dweller(193 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

"Complicating the task of raising texting to the level of recklessness is the law’s definition of what recklessness is — a conscious disregard for safety."

I fail to see how texting while driving does not meet this definition. If anything, I'd say it is wanton disregard for safety!

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11harpercm(9 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

hurrdurr, please. People speed along Middletown Rd all the time, there is a reason the police sit near Calla Rd. If drivers would slow down and be aware horrible things like this would not happen. This gentlemen had every right to enjoy walking in his neighborhood and took the proper precautions to be very visible to traffic.

PLEASE PASS A SIMILAR LAW OHIO!!
Recent law passed in Georgia:

* Text messaging banned for all drivers. Fines of $150.
* Drivers under the age of 18 prohibited from using cell phones, regardless of whether a hands-free device is attached. Also bans computer use. Fines of $150.
* School bus operators prohibited from using cell phones while driving, if passengers are present.

http://handsfreeinfo.com/georgia-cell...

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12Erplane(482 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

I think all use of cell phones should be banned while driving. Period. Since moving back to Ohio last year I have seen too many people glued to a cell phone. Who do they need to talk to all the time?

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13ErikWood(11 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

I think legislation has value in raising public awareness in forums like this one but it will be difficult to solely legislate our way out of this issue. I just read that 72% of teens text daily - many text more 3000 times a month. New college students no longer have email addresses! They use texting and Facebook - even with their professors. This text and drive issue is in its infancy and its not going away.

I decided to do something about it after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver . Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user (especially teens) I built a tool called OTTER that is a simple app for smartphones - low cost, no recurring fees. I think if we can empower the individual then change will come to our highways now and not just our laws.

Erik Wood, owner
OTTER LLC
OTTER app

Footnote:
- http://www.prlog.org/10871927.html

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14dan_the_man(1 comment)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

I agree with redcent. And anyone who doesn't in my opinion is wrong. Texting is dangerous. Especially for young teens who barely have expierence drivingand trying to text and drive. A car is a 3000 pound weapon. DON'T TEXT AND DRIVE!!

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