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Judge bans woman from using cell phone after fatal crash

Technically Incorrect: A Michigan woman was distracted by her phone when she hit and killed a cyclist. A judge decides her phone is a privilege, not a right.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Will taking away the right to own a phone make a difference? Aloysius Low/CNET

Our phones are our lives. Sadly.

Sometimes that obsession can cost someone else their life.

A judge in Michigan decided that he could do something to make that point clear. As the Lansing State Journal reports, 23-year-old Mitzi Nelson struck and killed a cyclist last fall while she was driving. Police say she was too busy looking at her phone to see where she was going.

Judge Stewart McDonald on Wednesday gave her two years of probation and six months in jail, with the potential of the final three months of that being commuted. He also gave her community service, as well as fines.

However, he meted out one more punishment, a very personal one. Nelson is not allowed to own or use a cell phone or other portable communication device for two years, reported the State Journal.

The judge declared: "I don't think she has a right to have a cell phone. I think it's a privilege."

The cell phone part of the sentence wasn't actually the judge's idea, according to the State Journal. It was proposed by Jordan Byelich, whose wife Jill was killed by Nelson.

In 2013, 3,154 people in the US were killed in motor vehicle crashes involv­ing distracted drivers -- which includes using a cell phone or texting, as well as activities such as eating, using a navigation system and adjusting the radio.

Nelson's lawyer told the State Journal that his client is unlikely to appeal. The question is, though, whether Nelson's cell phone punishment is actually meaningful.

Nelson could surely get a family member or friend to buy a phone for her. She could also borrow phones. However well intentioned the judge, how much of a deterrent is this likely to be?