The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Jake’s Law September 2014

I am writing in response to an opinion piece by Greer Smith that ran June 5 titled “Jake’s Law blames texting drivers for wrong reasons.” First, let me introduce myself – I am Jake’s mom.

Secondly, I would like to address some of the factual inaccuracies about the writer’s understanding of Jake’s Law. Prior to Jake’s Law, the General Assembly in Maryland already passed a law making it illegal to use a handheld cell phone and text while driving. Jake’s Law states that if you seriously injure or kill someone breaking a law already in existence, it is a Class A Misdemeanor punishable up to one year (not three as your article stated) in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. This is very different than if a driver kills someone due to drunk driving, which usually results in vehicular homicide charge and that is a felony punishable up to anywhere from five to ten years in jail.

Another inaccuracy in the article was that it mentions that Jake was killed by a texting driver, which is not true. The driver was talking on his cell phone, not texting. He was so distracted that for approximately 500 yards (which is equivalent to the length of five football fields), he did not notice that the traffic in front of him had completely stopped due to a previous accident. According to a data retrieval device in his car, when he hit our car from behind at 62 MPH as we were stopped in traffic, he had not even applied his brakes. It was not a split second during which he took his eyes off the road, he did not see what was in front of him for more than 10 seconds.

This driver, who killed a five-year old boy and seriously injured my husband and daughter walked out of the courthouse with two minor traffic tickets and $1,000 in fines. Maybe to Greer Smith, this seems like justice, but to our family, it was not. What happened to our family could have and can happen to any other family.

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The article mentions addiction. Many people are addicted to alcohol, but there are still laws that state that if you drink a six pack of beer because of your addiction and get behind the wheel of a car and kill someone, you are still responsible for your actions and addiction does not absolve the driver of his or her accountability.

Automobile crashes is the leading cause of teen deaths. Cell phone distracted driving is the new drunk driving. Crashes caused by drivers manipulating a cell phone (whether it is texting, dialing, taking a selfie, or updating your Facebook account) is now responsible for more teen deaths (more than 3,000 last year) than drunk driving. (2013 study by Cohen Children’s Medical Center). A 2009 Car & Driver study revealed that drivers had a slower reaction time to braking when reading a text while driving than when driving under the influence.

The driver who hit our car was a 23-year old Baltimore County corrections officer with a clean driving record. He did not leave his house to go to work that day intending to total three cars, kill a five-year old boy and seriously injure two others, but that is what happened. When our family decided to appeal to lawmakers to address cell phone distracted driving, our goal was not to punish the driver, but rather create a strong deterrent to this dangerous behavior. Because by the time it gets to the courts, it is too late, another life has been lost or seriously injured.

When Mothers Against Drunk Driving first began their efforts to prevent drunk driving, they were often dismissed or ridiculed despite studies that demonstrated how dangerous the practice was. Yet now society finds drunk driving unacceptable, which is exactly how we should view cell phone distracted driving. The goal of Jake’s Law is to save lives because no other family should have to lose a son or daughter or a mother or a father because a driver thought that a phone call or text was more important than his or her safety and the safety of everyone else on the road. And I am fairly certain that most parents would rather their kids come home safely than immediately return a text or take their call.

The last words Jake said to us in the car as he was playing with a Super Mario Brothers game that he got for Christmas three days prior was “Mom, I have 43 lives!” I think about the irony of his last words every day and do not want another family to ever go through what we experienced.


Susan Yum

Jake’s Mom

The Observer’s Response:

The Observer apologizes for the factual errors that appeared in the May 19, 2014 article “Jake’s Law blames texting drivers for the wrong reasons.” Though editorial writers are entitled to express their opinions, their opinions must always be based on truth, and we failed to catch factual errors that appeared in the editorial. We are renewing our ongoing commitment to truth and accuracy and express our deepest condolences to Jake’s family for their tragic loss.

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Jake’s Law September 2014