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Driver Faces Homicide Charges for Facebook-Related Motor Vehicle Accident Fatality

North Dakota Woman Charged with Negligent Homicide in Facebook-Related Motor Vehicle Accident

Texting & drivingProsecutors in North Dakota have charged a 20-year-old female with negligent homicide in the death of an elderly woman on a North Dakota highway last May. According to witnesses, the defendant was traveling at a high rate of speed when she rear-ended an SUV, in which the elderly woman was a passenger. In the investigation after the crash, police obtained a warrant to look at the defendant’s phone and concluded that she was viewing pictures on her Facebook application at the time of the accident. Police also determined that she had been sending text messages while driving.

Under North Dakota law, it is illegal to read, write or send electronic messages, including e-mails, while driving. Unfortunately, the fine is only $100, so authorities believe it provides little disincentive to motorists.

A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2011 found that the largest number of motor vehicle accidents involved individuals between the ages of 18 and 20. Furthermore, the study showed that, while nearly all those involved in crashes admitted to using a mobile device while driving, the highest percentage of use was at or near the time of the crash.

Another motorist, who witnessed the accident (and was almost hit himself), told police officers that he saw the defendant approach the SUV at what appeared to be approximately 85 miles an hour, and that she struck the rear of the vehicle without braking. Police confirmed that there were no skid marks at the scene.

Prosecutors in other states have filed similar charges in traffic fatalities involving texting and driving or using Facebook while driving. In Arizona, a 33 year-old truck driver was charged with second degree murder, reckless endangerment and criminal damage after killing a police officer in a crash while looking at photographs of women on his phone while driving.

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