Matt Richtel

A Deadly Wandering

  • 50-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 50 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a professional writer with an MFA in Creative Writing
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A Deadly Wandering Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 50-page guide for “A Deadly Wandering” by Matt Richtel includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 50 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Tragedy and Redemption and The Allure and Danger of Distracted Driving.

Plot Summary

A Deadly Wandering is a 2014 nonfiction book by Matt Richtel. In 2006, Reggie Shaw was driving on a mountainous road in Utah on his way to work when he drifted over the center line and clipped a car carrying two rocket scientists, which spun and slammed into another car, killing the two men on impact. Reggie’s story became a rallying cry for bringing public awareness to the dangers of texting while driving.

Reggie’s story begins in 2006, when he is sent home from his Mormon mission because he confesses to having premarital sex with his girlfriend. He gets a painting job and the car accident happens one day when he is driving to work. One state trooper on the scene, Bart Rindlisbacher, suspects Reggie was texting and driving.

Meanwhile, in separate chapters, we get a history of the science of attention and the ways in which technology preys upon our bottom-up and top-down attention systems. The rapid advancement of technology, coupled with the addicting nature of communications, could in many researchers’ minds lead to undesirable consequences, such as an increase in traffic accident fatalities.

Terryl Warner—a victims’ advocate who had a tough childhood involving an alcoholic father and disengaged mother—gets involved in Reggie’s case, working on behalf of Jackie Furfaro and Leila O’Dell, the wives of the rocket scientists. Meanwhile Rindlisbacher and several other investigators subpoena Reggie’s phone records and discover that he may have indeed been texting at the time of the accident. Reggie withdraws emotionally while Leila and Jackie deal with their husbands’ death in their own ways.

Reggie hires a lawyer and Terryl encourages the county to bring charges against Reggie. Reggie is training for his second attempt to complete a Mormon mission when he is called back to face charges of negligent homicide. A vicious legal battle ensues, with Reggie and his family and their lawyer, Jon Bunderson, on one side, and Don Linton, the county prosecutor, and the O’Dells, Furfaros, and Terryl on the other. Finally, Reggie admits to himself during testimony from a researcher that he was texting during the accident and was responsible for the deaths of the two men. He tells his story in a state committee hearing, and a law outlawing texting and driving passes. He agrees to a plea deal involving thirty days of jail time and the requirement that he tell his story to educate the public. He begins a campaign that changes many of the minds of people who were involved in the case about how remorseful he is. He speaks to high schools and professional athletes, telling his story and warning them against making the same mistake he did.

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