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Man avoids jail in texting death
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Texting driver pleads guilty in AshevilleRALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A guilty plea this month by a man who was texting behind the wheel when he struck and killed a motorcyclist may be the first case involving the two-year-old texting ban to make its way through North Carolina's courts, highway safety officials said.Andrew James Watkins, 25, of Mecklenburg County pleaded Wednesday to misdemeanor death by vehicle in the August 2010 death of 39-year-old Joel Severson.Watkins, who police say veered out of his lane and while distracted struck Severson's motorcycle, was given a 60-day suspended sentence, 200 hours of community service and fined $1,000 plus court costs this week in Buncombe County District Court. Watkins also agreed not to use or possess a cell phone while driving.A statewide ban on texting while driving was passed by the legislature in 2009. Talking on cell phones is legal for North Carolina drivers above the age of 18.Arthur Goodwin, a senior research associate at the Highway Safety Research Center in Chapel Hill, said drivers who talk behind the wheel increase their accident risk by 400 percent, about the same percentage as for driving while legally intoxicated.But texting appears to be even riskier.