Sometimes an action is so dangerous, yet so accepted, that people need a powerful deterrent. When it comes to texting while driving, that deterrent now has a face: 18-year-old Aaron Deveau of Haverhill. Last week, a Haverhill District Court jury convicted Deveau of motor vehicle homicide in the death of Daniel Bowley Jr., who died in 2011 after Deveau’s car collided with his head-on. Deveau, the jury found, had been texting behind the wheel just before the crash. Judge Stephen Abany sentenced Deveau to a year in prison and a 15-year suspension of his driver’s license.
Reactions have ranged from dismay that Deveau won’t serve the maximum prison term of 4½ years to shock, largely from teenagers, that an act so commonplace could produce a sentence so stiff — including going carless for a decade and a half. In fact, Abany’s sentence is both just and wise. Deveau had no prior record, suggesting the need for some leniency. But his actions were undeniably dangerous, and the fact that they were commonplace doesn’t change the fact that he should have known better. Cellphone use while driving is a problem of epidemic proportions; a new state survey found that 42 percent of Massachusetts high school students — and 61 percent of seniors — admit to texting behind the wheel. Deveau’s sentence sends a message to drivers of any age that this casual action is, in fact, an act of supreme endangerment.