Distracted driving led to tragedy in Texas in late March. A van carrying church members from the First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas was involved in a deadly crash with a pickup truck outside Garner State Park, on U.S. 83. The collision occurred on March 29, 2017, leaving 13 people dead. As authorities investigated the tragic collision, they found the driver of the pickup truck acknowledged he was texting before the crash, to a witness to the accident.
That witness, a driver who was behind the pickup, told authorities he had watched the driver of the pickup driving erratically prior to the collision, crossing the center line on more than one occasion. The accident occurred on a two-lane road, approximately seventy-five miles west of San Antonio where Jody Kuchler, a self-employed welder, and his girlfriend were driving back to their home near Leakey. The two saw the pickup truck in front of them go across the center line and off the shoulder several times.
Kuchler said he and his girlfriend followed the pickup for at least fifteen minutes, and that he called the sheriff’s offices in Real County and Uvalde County, telling dispatchers that someone needed to get the driver of the pickup truck off the road before he hit someone. Kuchler and his girlfriend witnessed the crash with the church bus, stopping to render aid to those involved. During this time, the driver of the pickup truck, Jack Young, 20, of Leakey, told Kuchler “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I was texting.” Kuchler asked the young man if he knew what he had just caused, and Young said again, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
The collision between the church bus and Young’s pickup truck occurred on a curve in the road which had a posted speed limit of 65 mph. While officials agree that the pickup truck crossed the center line, causing the accident, they have declined to say whether texting played a part in the crash, and federal investigators declined to comment. Jennifer Morrison, an investigator from the NTSB, did say that distracted driving would certainly be one of the issues investigated.
Twelve people died at the scene of the accident, while another died in the hospital. Another passenger remains hospitalized, in stable condition, and Young, the driver of the pickup, was also hospitalized. The ages of those on the church bus ranged from 61-87; the group was returning from a three-day retreat at the Leakey Alto Frio Baptist Encampment.
Oddly, in this era of texting and driving accidents, Texas has no statewide ban on texting while driving, although many larger cities in the state do have a prohibition on texting while driving. Forty-six other states have laws in place which make sending or reading texts or e-mails while driving illegal. While the Texas Legislature did approve such a ban in 2011, it was vetoed by the governor at the time, Rick Perry.
Perry characterized prohibiting texting while driving as “government micromanagement,” claiming education was the key to stopping the practice. Now that Perry is a part of the new federal government administration, the state is attempting once more, to ban texting while driving. The proposed bill passed the Texas House, but has not yet made it to the Senate floor for a vote.
A second issue at hand, other than texting and driving, is the lack of three-point lap and shoulder belts installed on passenger buses and school buses. The church bus did have three-point lap and shoulder belts for the driver and front passenger, but only lap belts for all other passengers. A three-point seat belt can more completely hold the upper torso in place, preventing head injuries, while, in a front-impact crash, those with lap belts only will go forward violently, striking their head on the back of the seat directly in front of them. Those seated on the side of the bus are likely to hit their heads on the side windows. According to a spokesperson for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, those involved in a frontal crash of this type who were wearing only a lap belt would have essentially “hit a brick wall.”
If you or someone you love was injured in a car accident in Longmont, it is important to review your case with an experienced car accident attorney immediately – especially if your accident was caused by a texting driver. Contact the law firm of Fuicelli & Lee, PC, for a free case evaluation. You pay nothing unless you receive a financial settlement or award. Call our office at 303-355-7202 or fill out our confidential contact form.
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