According to his family, 55-year-old Dave Muslovski had a fitness goal he wanted to attain as he neared retirement. He’d been on a mission to lose at least 100 pounds, but managed to lose nearly 165, walking eighteen miles, nine in the morning and nine at night, every day for nine months. Muslovski ventured out for his first nine miles on a morning walk in 2010 near Youngstown, Ohio when he was struck by a 19-year-old driver, Whitney Yaeger. She’d taken her eyes off the road to attend to a text on her cellphone. Yaeger didn’t seen Muslovski, even though he’d been wearing reflective gear.
Muslovski was rushed to the hospital but died as a result of the accident. Yaeger, now 22, was charged with vehicular homicide and sentenced to 45 days in jail, three years of probation, and 200 hours community service in which she must speak to young drivers about her experience. The sentence received shock and awe; most considering it a slap on the wrist considering it resulted in the death of another. Texting while driving in Ohio was not against the law at the time the accident occurred.
“We got a phone call from the local media, wanting our response to the fact that the young girl had just admitted that she was texting and driving. And quite frankly, we hadn’t known up to that point. We just assumed that it was a standard traffic accident.”
Devastated by the mere non-existent sentence the teen driver received, Muslovski’s family lobbied to change Ohio State driving laws, banning texting while driving. It took effect in August 2012. It is now illegal to text while driving in 39 states.
Jennifer Smith, an advocate for laws that inhibit texting while driving, said:
“People are getting a slap on the wrist for this. And who knows how many cases we don’t even know about because people aren’t admitting it and we’re not checking the cell phone records.”
Fellow advocates argue that texting and driving is akin to drinking while driving, just as dangerous and should carry more serious punishments.
Smith reasoned that:
“In drunk driving cases you see normal sentences anywhere from two to 15 years and up. With texting and driving, you can see virtually no punishment, to a few days in jail, up to 30 days. And in a few cases there’s been one, two years.”
Paul Atchley, cognitive psychology professor at Kansas University, reinforced the risks associated with drunk driving and texting while driving:
“If driving drunk is a 400 percent increase in crash risk texting’s been shown to be possibly a 2,300 percent increase in crash risk. You have to have your hands on a device and not on the wheel. You have to have your eyes off of the road and on this device. And you have to think about it because speaking, constructing speech even though you’re typing it out, is a hard thing for the brain to do.”
WKBN27 reported that in court Muslovski’s wife, Denise, gave a statement before Yaeger’s sentence was handed down:
“Often I lie awake at night and I envision what he must have seen the very last few moments. You driving towards him, his jumping out of the way, trying to avoid the collision, you never seeing him.”