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Massachusetts teen sentenced to prison for texting while driving

A Massachusetts teenager has been found guilty of motor vehicle homicide after his texting led to a fatal car crash. WHDH-TV's Victoria Block reports.

A Massachusetts teenager was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison and loss of his license for 15 years for causing a fatal crash by texting while driving.

Aaron Deveau, 18, was convicted of motor vehicle homicide by texting – the first driver in Massachusetts to face such charges, the Boston Globe reported. Prosecutors said Deveau, who pleaded not guilty, was texting on Feb. 20, 2011, when his vehicle swerved across the center line of a Haverhill, Mass., street and crashed head on into Daniel Bowley’s truck, killing the 55-year-old New Hampshire father of three.

Bowley’s sister, Donna Burleigh, said her brother suffered severe head trauma and lingered in a Boston hospital for 18 days before dying.


Before imposing the maximum sentence on Deveau, District Court Judge Stephen Abany said he was sending a message of deterrence to Massachusetts drivers.

Deterrence “really seems to come to play in this case,’’ Abany said, according to the Globe report. “People really want to be safe on the highways.’’ People need to “keep their eyes on the road, keep their eyes on the road.’’

Paul Bilodeau / AP

Aaron Deveau, 18, listens during his trial in Haverhill District Court in Haverhill, Mass.

David Teater, senior director of transportation initiative at the National Safety Council, agreed with the ruling and said he believes it’s important to take a hardline approach on cases of texting while driving.

“People can violate these laws and there really isn’t much of a deterrence without examples like this,” Teater told msnbc.com. “Clearly, being distracted is an extremely deadly thing that’s going on in this country and people need to understand they just can’t do it.”

Deveau, who was 17 at the time of the crash, was initially charged with motor vehicle homicide and negligent operation of a motor vehicle, using a mobile phone while operating a motor vehicle, reading or sending an electronic message, a marked lanes violation and two counts of negligent operation and injury from mobile phone use.

Deveau’s lawyer argued there was no evidence that the crash caused Bowley’s death. In his own testimony, Deveau said he was distracted by the amount of homework he had to do and sent his last text message while parked in the parking lot of the grocery store where he worked. Furthermore, he said he left his phone in the passenger’s seat until after the crash when he called his parents.

Though he insisted he was not texting at the time of the crash and could not remember texting while driving, phone records indicate Deveau sent a text message at 2:34 p.m. and received a response at 2:35 p.m. Police said the crash occurred at 2:35 p.m., ABCNews.com reported.

“I made a mistake,’’ Deveau told the judge, according to the Globe. “If I could take it back, I would take it back. I just want to apologize to the family.’’

A survivor of the crash – Bowley’s girlfriend, Luz Roman – said she suffered emotional and physical stress after the crash and death of Bowley, the father of her three children. 

“This has been giving me a lot of pain, there are no words to describe,’’ Roman said, according to the Globe. “Broken leg, broken heart.’’

“We hope this sends a message that it’s not OK to text and drive,’’ Burleigh said, according to the Globe.

Texting while driving is a crime in Washington, D.C., and 38 states, including Massachusetts.

“This is a threat that did not exist just a few years ago, and we’ve never had to understand how being connected to a mobile world was dangerous,” Teater told msnbc.com. “Unfortunately now the way we’re beginning to understand the danger of it is by people getting hurt and dying. And that needs to change.”

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