Sun Prairie woman sentenced for texting before fatal crash

Kanoff first person to be convicted in Wisconsin for texting-related crash
Sun Prairie woman sentenced for texting before fatal crash

A Sun Prairie woman convicted of homicide by negligent driving for texting before a fatal crash was sentenced in Dane County Court Friday.

A jury sentenced Stephanie Kanoff, 21, to one year in jail and two years of extended supervision.

A jury found Kanoff guilty in July.

She crashed into 21-year-old University of Wisconsin student Dylan Ellefson as he stood behind his broken-down car in October 2010. His parents took the stand Friday.

“Stephanie Kanoff chose to play Russian roulette with her car as her weapon,” said Dan Ellefson, the victim’s father. “Dylan became her victim.”

“The incredible life Dylan was intended to live has been stolen, and we’ve been robbed of the joy of watching him accomplish his goals and fulfill his dreams,” Dylan’s mother, Deb Ellefson, added.

The Ellefson family urged Dane County Judge Stephen Ehlke for a maximum punishment. While that did not happen, Ehlke said some prison time was a necessary punishment to send a strong message to the community.

“This is absolutely unsafe and it will cause other deaths and injuries in the future if people don’t stop texting while driving,” Ehlke said.

Kanoff said the car she was driving behind blocked her view. But prosecutors said had Kanoff not been distracted, she would have seen and avoided Ellefson.

“I have spent many days just staring at the sky,” Kanoff told the court, “asking God to please forgive me and to give me the strength and help me find the words to apologize to the Ellefson family.”

Kanoff will also have to complete 100 hours of community service focused on sharing her story with young drivers.

Kanoff is the first person in Wisconsin, and one of just a few in the United States, to be convicted for killing someone while texting and driving.

According to the Wisconsin State Patrol, the penalty for texting and driving is a $189 fine and four points on the offender’s license. Sgt. David Harvey said you are 8 percent to 23 percent more likely to get into an accident when texting behind the wheel. He added 15 percent of teens who text admit to doing it while driving.

Harvey said texting and driving laws come under the category of inattentive driving and are difficult for highway patrol officers to enforce. However, he hopes younger drivers see the law as a warning that might save their lives.

“We’re talking about trying to prevent people from causing serious harm to others, or even themselves,” Harvey said.

Sun Prairie woman sentenced for texting before fatal crash