Nobody intends to drive distracted and kill or maim an innocent person. In fact, most people would be horrified if you suggested that their actions could lead to those results.

Yet that is exactly how many incidents of distracted driving end up – with the squeal of tires on asphalt and the grinding sound of metal on metal as two cars collide.

A sad example

For one young man, his trip to Corpus Christi to attend a youth leadership conference wound up irrevocably altering his life for the worse.

He was returning home from the conference on April 12, 2014, when a distracted driver headed in the opposite direction lost control of her vehicle and slammed head-on into the young man’s car.

Although he has no memories of the accident, the damage is permanent. No longer the honor student he once was, he had to relearn how to talk. He stated that he would “never be able to drive…the doctors said I had the academic level of a fourth-grader. Being killed in a car crash isn’t the worst thing that can happen.”

Many losses from distracted driving

The at-fault driver in his accident had previous citations for distracted driving. She wound up paying the ultimate price for her negligent actions, as she succumbed to her crash injuries within three weeks of the accident. The young man spent months in the hospital undergoing grueling rehabilitation and therapies.

One of the saddest effects of his traumatic brain injury (TBI) is that he no longer has memories of large portions of his childhood.

Legislative response to crisis

Just like with drunk driving many years ago, state legislators have begun to respond to the problem of distracted driving. While 47 states have enacted laws to ban driving and texting, some states have sought harsher penalties for those scofflaws who repeatedly offend. Other deterrents include banning all handheld devices behind the wheel and including enhanced sentencing in the punishment phase for defendants.

Numbers don’t lie

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2016 alone, 3,450 individuals lost their lives in collisions involving distracted driving. Close to 400,000 others suffered injuries in distracted driving accidents the previous year.

Even with sobering statistical evidence of the problem, on average, the penalty for distracted driving is typically only about $200. This compares to the $10K or more owed by a defendant convicted of DUI.

A two-pronged path to justice

When a distracted driver’s negligence claims a life or causes injuries to survivors, the state may impose criminal penalties. But regardless of whether or not the driver faces charges or citations, those who are injured and the survivors of the victims who lost their lives can pursue civil justice by filing a claim for damages.