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Can Distracted Driving Lead To A Criminal Conviction For Vehicular Homicide?

Can Distracted Driving Lead To A Criminal Conviction For Vehicular Homicide?

In a word, YES!  While people often think of vehicular homicide in the context of DUI cases, the charge has a much broader application and can certainly apply to people who unintentionally kill others while driving.

Under Georgia law, a person can be charged with first-degree vehicular homicide, which is considered a felony in Georgia, when a driver causes the death of another by:

    • overtaking and passing a school bus;
    • reckless driving;
    • driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
    • fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer; or
    • hit and run

To convict someone of first-degree vehicular homicide, evidence must show a connection between the death and the conduct of the defendant.  For example, evidence from the defendant’s cell phone showing that he or she was texting just before the crash could be damaging against him or her.

Recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the first-degree vehicular homicide convictions where the defendant was posting a video to Facebook at the time of the crash.  The video showed the defendant and her three children dancing and excited about the day which was Thanksgiving.  The video also captured the moments the crash occurred and after.  The video was enough to prove the defendant was driving recklessly.  The defendant was convicted of two counts of homicide by vehicle in first degree, failure to stop at stop sign, failure to exercise due care, and reckless driving.  She was sentenced to 18 years in prison and 12 years probation.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.  In 2021, 1,824 people died on Georgia’s roads.  1,276 of those deaths could have been avoided according to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) which found 70% of fatalities in crashes are caused by unsafe driving behaviors, including distractions, impairment, or driving too fast for conditions.

GDOT has made safety on Georgia roadways its number one priority by implementing numerous preventative measures and safety programs including its Drive Alert Arrive Alive campaign.  This safety campaign is designed to educate drivers about simple changes they can make in their driving behavior to prevent crashes, improve safety, and save lives.  It highlights 3 easy ways drivers can drive safely:

  1. Buckle Up – Always wear a seat belt no matter how far you drive [it’s the law]. Make sure passengers buckle up too.
  1. Stay off Phones & Mobile Devices – Drivers, put down the phone and just drive. If possible, shut it off to avoid temptation.  And no texting.
  1. Drive Alert – Do not drive drowsy or impaired.

If you were seriously injured from a wreck involving a distracted driver or a loved one was killed by a distracted driver, we encourage you to contact our office at The Baer Law Firm or at 404.THE.BAER (404.843.2237).  An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand your legal options and explain the possibility of filing a wrongful death claim.