Freehold, New Jersey — A New Jersey woman is facing up to a decade in prison after being convicted in a groundbreaking case. She was texting while driving, and killed a pedestrian, in a state that now considers that just as serious as drunk driving.
Surveillance video shows the moments before Alexandra Mansonet's black Mercedes plowed into the back of a red Toyota Corolla. The impact was so hard, it bashed into the back of the Corolla, propelling it into 39-year-old Yuwen Wang, who was in the crosswalk. Five days later, Wang died in the hospital.
During Mansonet's trial, prosecutors claim she was texting about dinner plans. But Mansonet told jurors she looked down for a moment to adjust the defroster.
"The car was right in front of me, so I um, I hit the car," she said.
"No evidence in our accident investigation that showed that there was evasive action taken, or any skid marks that would show that she braked, so the first time she realized that she had struck something is when the actual collision occurred," said prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni.
Last Friday, Mansonet was found guilty of vehicular homicide. It's believed to be the first time a 2012 New Jersey law that treats a texting driver as harshly as a drunken driver was tested in court.
Forty eight states and Washington, D.C. now ban text messaging for all drivers. Fourteen percent of distracted driver crashes in 2017 were linked to cell phone usage.
Mansonet is now awaiting sentencing. It's rare to have prosecutions in distracted driving cases, though this case might serve as a wake up call for drivers nationwide.