In High Point, North Carolina on April 26, 2014, a 32 year old woman was in the process of posting a photograph of herself on Facebook while driving on Interstate 85. Her vehicle veered left, over the middle of the road, causing a head-on collision with a truck coming from the opposite direction. The 2005 Toyota Corolla was pushed into a ditch where it caught on fire. The driver, Courtney Ann Sanford, was killed as a result of the accident.
According to reports, Ms. Sanford was driving along posting multiple photographs of herself while listening to music by Pharrell Williams. Ironically, the song was the popular single “Happy”.
Fortunately, the innocent truck driver, 73 year old John Wallace Thompson, whose truck was pushed off the road and into a tree, was not injured. He was hauling a recycling bin.
As in Massachusetts, texting and driving are illegal in North Carolina.
Distracted Driving and Motor Vehicle Deaths
According to the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 3,331 people were killed as a result of distracted driving in 2011, the most recent year available.
Ms. Sanford, was a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, gainfully employed, and, according to her obituary, had many close family members. How could she have not understood the dangers associated with driving while posting to Facebook? The question will not be answered, but we can learn from her tragic mistake.
Seatbelts and Wrongful Death
Ms. Sanford was wearing a seatbelt. However, it was inappropriately attached, perhaps resulting in her death. The police did not publish their reasons for making this point. Nevertheless, the typical “improper seat belt” use is from failing to use the shoulder strap. This improper use results in serious injuries and wrongful death all too often.
The first seat belt law, which was mad federal in 1968, required only that all vehicles had seat belts. New York State required all occupants in a vehicle to wear seat belts in 1984. Massachusetts has had the seat belt law since 1994. As we know, Massachusetts is a secondary enforcement state; that is, a police officer may not pull over someone who he or she believes is not wearing a seat belt. However, once pulled over legally, a police officer may give a ticket to someone not wearing a seat belt. It is believed that over 73% of Massachusetts drivers and occupants are obeying this law.
In the legal process, however, damages may not be reduced because of non-use of a seat belt. The responsible party is accountable for all damages to the victim, notwithstanding the fact that the victim may have been less severely injured had she been wearing a seat belt.
Retain an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer
If you, or someone you love, have been injured as a result of a distracted driver, call Attorney Neil Burns for a free consultation. We work on injury cases on a contingent basis – there is no fee unless we are successful. Call 617-227-7423!