Book Review: A Deadly Wandering, by Matt Richtel

This post originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission.

In 2006, 19-year-old Reggie Shaw was headed to work when he veered over the double line in the center of the road and skimmed the side of an oncoming car, sending it spiraling out of control; the crash took the lives of both of that car's occupants. Investigators subpoenaed Shaw's cell phone records and found that he had been sending and receiving text messages in the minutes--and seconds--leading up to the accident.

What followed was a years-long legal battle as the state of Utah struggled with the issues involving texting while driving, and how much control the state could exert over drivers' actions behind the wheel. Ultimately, Shaw's own testimony proved indispensable in pushing through legislation that would limit drivers' use of cell phones and make more people aware of the dangers of texting and driving.

Matt Richtel won a Pulitzer Prize for his New York Times series on the subject of distracted driving; A Deadly Wandering is his account of Shaw's accident and the ensuing legal battles. Not content with simple reportage, Richtel weaves in accounts from neuroscientists who are studying distraction, technology and how we can become addicted to our devices. Though Richtel sometimes offers too much detail, presenting more biographies of the players in the court case than might be necessary, his book ultimately serves as a testament to the power of journalism to retell a story with added layers for maximum impact. In a world where 89% of American adults believe it's dangerous to text and drive (though 64% still admit that they do it), that impact is clearly needed.


A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review.

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