Conn. accident shows dangers of distracted driving

Associated Press Modified: May 15, 2012 at 9:01 pm •  Published: May 15, 2012

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A teenage driver is under arrest after authorities said the distraction of a handheld cellphone caused her to fatally hit a jogger, whose father blames his death on her "stupidity."

The death of 44-year-old Kenneth Dorsey in Norwalk and the subsequent criminal charges against the 16-year-old driver come as other states are considering measures to force teenagers and adults to disconnect from cellphones and other electronic devices before getting behind the wheel.

Dorsey, an avid runner, was on a morning jog and training for a marathon on March 24 when he was fatally struck by the SUV the girl was driving, according to his father, Leo Dorsey.

The New Canaan girl, whom police are not naming because of her age, was charged Saturday with negligent homicide with a motor vehicle, using a handheld telephone under age 18 while driving and failure to drive in the proper lane. Police declined to say what she was doing on the phone, only that they found evidence she was using the keypad before Kenneth Dorsey was hit on a busy street.

"There's no reason to use a phone while you're driving a car," Leo Dorsey told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "There is nothing out there that important. I totally, totally have to believe that these phones can be made to shut off if they're moving. I'm pushing for phones that don't work when they're moving."

It could not immediately be determined who was representing the girl.

The accident is prompting new calls for people to put down their phones and other electronic devices while driving, from police officials to victims' relatives to readers posting online responses to the Norwalk accident story.

"We tried to convey just how this incident illustrates how dangerous it is to be distracted while driving a 3,500-pound vehicle 35 to 40 mph," Norwalk police Chief Harry Rilling said. "You need to focus all your attention on what you're doing. It only takes a second to swerve a few feet. Everybody should look at this and learn from it."

Connecticut is among 31 states and Washington, D.C., that ban all cellphone use by novice drivers, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Thirty-eight states ban texting while driving, with Ohio poised to become the 39th after a proposed ban that Gov. John Kasich has promised to sign received final legislative approval Tuesday.

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