If you teach your teenage driver anything teach them not to driver distracted. Yesterday I’m sitting at a stop light and beside me in the turn lane are a young driver and two passengers. The front seated passenger is watching the light for the driver while he sits there sending a text message. I wondered why cell companies or car makers don’t come up with a way to block texting when in a car. Really is there any reason why anyone needs to send a text message while driving or riding in a car? If the parents of this driver could only see him they’d be consequences to pay.

Driving while distracted is at epidemic proportions. Here are a few examples from Iowa. Mind you, every one results in at least one fatality. That’s where the title comes from.

Warren County – August 8, 2009Megan Marie Davis (16) from Norwalk driving northbound on 180th Avenue lost control “for an unknown reason” went off the roadway, into a ditch, struck the embankment and vaulted into the creek landing on the roof top of her 1988 Chevrolet S10. Davis was ready to start her junior year this fall at Norwalk High School.

Hardin County – August 9, 2009 -  Armando Castello (28) driving a 1988 Honda Civic westbound on D15 crossed over the center line, striking a 1991 Ford F-250 pickup truck driven by Abbye Fryslie (18) from Iowa Falls.  Ms. Fryslie was taken by air ambulance to the hospital in Ellsworth. Mr. Castello according to the report died and was pronounced dead at the scene. (I can’t be sure if this is the same Abbye Fryslie that plays volleyball for the Cougars High School Girls Volleyball team.

Adaire County – August 6, 2009 – Mark Miller (47) driving a 2003 Harley-Davidson motorcycle on the off-ramp of westbound I-80 at mile marker 93 lost control and slid into the ditch. He was not wearing a helmet and died from the injuries he sustained in the crash. His passenger, Connie Jae Emgarten, (40) was transported by ground ambulance and her condition was not reported.

Hancock County – July 29, 2009 – This one involves a Freighliner Semi-truck and a 2003 Toyota Celica, so you know it’s not going to end well; results in the driver of the Toyota dying. The Freightliner is driven by Allen James Enabnit (46) who is reported to have run a stop sign at R26 and B55. His semi-truck then collides with Hefty’s Toyota ending in the death of Amy Lynn Hefty (27).

Sac County – July 31, 2009 – In this crash or wreck or accident, however you’d like to describe it, a 1995 Mercury Sable is westbound on highway 175 and for an unexplained reason runs smack into the back of a 1982 John Deere 4440 AG Tractor. Both vehicles were then forced off of the road; the speed must have been fast, killing the driver of the Mercury. The tractor had its slow moving vehicle symbol and amber lights working, so why didn’t the driver of the car see the tractor? The reasons are unexplained but it cost the driver, Brian Campbell (27) his life, and his passenger, Sarah Anne Ahart (17) was injured and she was taken by ambulance to the Lohring Hospital. Its not known how the tractor driver, Dakota Michael Miller (17) is doing.

Polk County – July 31, 2009 – This single vehicle crash occurs on I-80 in Polk County when the motorcycle driven by Robert Clayvon leaves the roadway, drives into the median, rolls and kills him. The Iowa State Trooper noted “THE VEHICLE WAS A NEWLY PURCHASED USED MOTORCYCLE WITH A PAPER PLATE ON THE VEHICLE. THE MOTORCYCLE HAD BEEN RODE ONLY 7 MILES AFTER PURCHASE TO THE CRASH SITE. THE DRIVER WAS NOT WEARING A HELMET AND HAD SOME MEDICAL ISSUES.” I’m not sure what all that means, but this driver may not have been distracted but then again driving a new bike he may have been distracted checking something out. Speed isn’t determined so we don’t know what if any it may have contributed to the loss of control.

Crawford CountyAugust 2, 2009 – In this crash you have the at-fault vehicle attempting a left turn and failing to see and to yield to on-coming traffic. The driver who appears to be at-fault is a 75-year-old man Gerald Fredrickson of Turin. He’s driving on U.S. Highway 59 when he attempts a left turn at Iowa Highway 141, just 6 miles south of Denison. The report indicates he’s driving a Chevrolet Impala. The other car is driven by Noah Mayer and has several passengers, a Ricky Beck and one Schuyler Kiesel, both of who appeared to have been injured. It was the passenger in the at-fault car that was reported to have been killed. (Judith Fredrickson (71)) Ricky Beck, although reported to not have suffered incapacitating injuries was nevertheless life flighted to UNMC in Omaha, Nebraska.  Was it age, eyesight or a distraction that caused a failure to yield the right of way?

Greene County – August 4, 2009 – The lesson to learn from this crash would be that trains are big, heavy and unforgiving. James Parris is just 43-years-old and driving a 1999 Buick LeSabre across the railroad tracks at B Avenue when he is struck by a Northwestern Railroad engine heading east at B Avenue. The report indicates the car driver failed to obey the cross buck sign and crossed the tracks, but it’s not clear if there were drop down bars and warning lights in place and working. Nevertheless the rules of the road for crossing railroad tracks is stop, look and listen. Did the train’s engineer sound his horn before attempting to cross? No indication of that either. The car flipped over, burst into flames and the driver perished. A report from the Daily Times Herald of Carroll, Iowa states: “Greene County Sheriff Tom Heater said Parris stopped at the crossing as the train approached then drove onto the tracks.” What made him drive ahead after coming to a complete stop?

Webster CountyAugust 8, 2009 – In this crash, similar to Warren, Adaire and Polk County crashes, the driver of a motorcycle leaves the roadway, a curve in this instance, crashes and dies as a result. Casey Friesth (20) rounding the curve on D14 near National Avenue continues east off of the roadway enters the south ditch and overturns, where he and the bike are vaulted over the embankment of the connection with National Avenue and he’s killed.

Allamakee County – August 6, 2009 – A Missouri driver, John Ramer (43) driving west on X52, the Great River Road north of Harpers Ferry simply failed to negotiate a curve, crossed the center line, went through a fence, down a steep embankment, his vehicle rolled several times, it struck a junked car and came to rest on it’s top. The report is that even though he used his seat belt, he died.

Mahaska County – August 11, 2009 – A is driving westbound on Highway 92 crosses the center line striking an oncoming vehicle that losses control, strikes a third vehicle and finally comes to rest. The first is driven by a 72-year-old man James Bowen, the second is a Semi-truck being driven by Tom Rangel (43) and the third, Virginia Weber (81). The report is that Bowen dies in the collision.

I’ve been practicing personal injury litigation for almost 30 years and unlike the tort reformers I’m not asking why there are so many lawsuits because to do so ignores prevention. We need to prevent accidental injury and then the number of lawsuits will take care of itself. In many of these instances the at-fault driver will be sued, either by their passengers or the other car’s drivers and passengers for the damages they’ve caused. And they should, because none of those other people asked for this or did anything to cause the collisions. In many, not all but many of the collisions we see distracted driving habits or we can safely assume the drivers were distracted and it created situations where a crash was inevitable.

How can they be avoided?

Well how about if we teach our children and adopt a habit of not talking on the cell phone or texting or doing anything else that takes our attention away from driving. That’s certainly a good place to start.

Steve Lombardi
Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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