Texting 20-Year-Old Convicted of Homicide

Tom Held reports on his blog, The Active Pursuit, that the 20-year-old woman who was texting when she crashed into James Weiss riding his bicycle in Kimberly a year ago, has been convicted of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle and will be sentenced on August 20th. According to news accounts, District Attorney Carrie Schneider will recommend a two-to-three-year prison sentence for Little Chute woman, PaKou Xiong, along with four to five years of extended supervision. Schneider is also expected to ask for a community service order that would require Xiong to speak publicly about her case or the dangers of texting and driving.

Pa-Kou-Xiong

Soon after she left work, Xiong hit Weiss, 46, from behind while both were eastbound on Kimberly Avenue after midnight on July 28, 2012. Weiss, the manager of the Liberty Hall Banquet and Conference Center, suffered severe head injuries and died one week later. Phone records show Xiong began texting almost as soon as she began driving home from work that night.  Phone records showed a half-dozen messages received and sent in the six minutes prior to the crash, and she was actually typing a text when she hit Weiss.

There are a couple take-aways this tragic and avoidable crash (note that I did not say “accident”) most of us can learn from. The primary lesson is that distracted driving can result in the deaths of innocent, vulnerable road users. Most of us who ride bicycles also drive cars. Many of us are just as guilty of distracted driving, but we have been lucky enough not to hurt anyone. Many of us have also been passengers in cars where the driver is texting, speeding, failing to yield to a pedestrian, or just eating a cheeseburger. We can all be safety advocates for sharing the road by asking our friends and relatives to give driving the full attention it deserves.

 

Finally, the other important factor in this fatal crash is that Weiss was not wearing a helmet. People who know me know I don’t always wear a helmet when I ride in the city. I know there are many studies that show riding a bike (even without a helmet) is safer than driving, taking a shower, walking down stairs, etc. I also know that if you are hit by a car going 45-50 mph, a helmet might not do you much good. All that said, it remains true that you dramatically reduce your risk of serious head injury in a crash if you are wearing a helmet.

We all evaluate risks differently, but please, think before you ride or before you answer that call on your phone while driving a motor vehicle. Let’s do all we can to help reduce the number of avoidable deaths like this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

4 thoughts on “Texting 20-Year-Old Convicted of Homicide

  1. This is better than the typical nothing, so it is a start. Too many young people will feel that a two to three year sentence as a downside risk for being able to text and drive is worth it. In my opinion, you should get two to three years if you DON’T kill someone while texting and driving. If you do, then it should go up to 20 to 30. I don’t buy this, “Why ruin two lives?” junk, either. I have absolute zero sympathy for phone users who kill or hurt themselves, other drivers, their own kids, cyclists, or any property. Driving phone users make a deliberate choice that says their texts and phone calls trump human life. People who make those deliberate decisions should pay dearly for the costs they impose on society.

  2. I understand that the focus of the article is weighing whether the punishment fit the crime and texting & driving is bad. I noticed, however, that this happened after midnight, in the dark. There was no indication of James Weiss having anything that made him more visible, such as lighting and/or reflective/hi-viz gear. As a cyclist who rides at night often, I’m disappointed at the number of other cyclists who have no lighting whatsoever. Huge pet peeve of mine. As a driver, I’ve had the occasional close call while PAYING ATTENTION – especially with a black bike without even the stock reflectors. I have taken it farther than most by having both handlebar and helmet mounted headlights, and also seat post and helmet mounted taillights. I routinely have cars stop as they see me approaching, because they don’t know what I am. The point is to be as proactive as possible right from the start to keep something like this from happening in the first place. No amount of jail time will ever bring James back.

    • A valid point Tim. To be safe, you need good lights when riding at night in areas without streetlights. If you ride in rural areas at night, the investment in good front and rear lights could save your life. Not sure of the quality of his lights, but as I mentioned in a previous comment, the victim did have front and rear lights. Also, in this case, the driver hit him in the middle of texting. A person riding a bicycle at night without lights could very well suffer the ultimate tragic consequences for their actions, but no text message is more important than someone’s life.

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