A 20-year-old Huntington Beach college student accused of being under the influence of drugs and texting when he struck and killed 14-year-old Danny Oates has plead not guilty. Jeffrey Woods has been charged with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and driving under the influence, according to a news article in The Orange County Register.
Woods was reportedly texting and negotiating a drug deal Aug. 29, when he crashed his pickup truck into Danny at the intersection of Indianapolis and Everglades Lane, an intersection considered to be unsafe by many long-time residents in the neighborhood. Danny was on his bicycle riding to his school. Our firm is representing Danny’s parents in a civil case against those responsible for Danny’s death.
On July 1, a new California law will go into effect banning hand-held cell phone use for adults and banning all cell-phone and texting for teen drivers. However, this new law does not prohibit adults from texting. There is no question that texting should have been part of the ban and Woods’ negligent behavior shows us why texting should have been included in the text of the new law.
According to a study cited in this Bakersfield Californian editorial, 57 percent adults confess to texting or sending or looking at e-mail while driving. It is rather obvious that texting while driving can be an extremely dangerous practice because it requires users to look away from the road at least for a few seconds and use both hands. On high-speed California freeways, this could have disastrous consequences. New Jersey and Washington are the only states that have banned text messaging by all drivers so far.
Leaving the option of texting wide open for adult drivers is a mistake in this law. And I can only wonder how many more auto accident deaths and injuries it is going to take before this is fixed. It is saddening to think that Danny Oates may have been alive had Woods kept his eyes on the road and his hands on the wheel.