Two Die in Fatal Maine Crash, Distraction Blamed

There is perhaps nothing more devastating than losing a child.

Another mother in Maine now knows that pain, as well as the guilt of knowing she might have prevented the crash that killed her son, a high school football player, if only she’d been paying attention behind the wheel.

Authorities say the mother was driving in Bridgton when she reportedly drifted left of center because she was distracted in an exchange with her son in the back seat. When she realized she drifted, she swerved right and slammed on the brakes, causing her to lose control of the car, which careened off the road and into a patch of trees. Not only did her 16-year-old son die, but her 35-year-old boyfriend was killed.

Investigators believe she may have been speeding as well.

Our Portland accident injury lawyers realize this tragic case illustrates that while cell phone distraction deservedly receives much discussion, there are other in-vehicle demands for our attention that can be just as dangerous.

Although a new study released by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign indicates talking while driving is safest when the driver is speaking to someone in the vehicle who can see what they see, the Bridgton case shows this is not without exception. Researchers asserted that when a passenger can see what the driver sees, they are likely to react to the traffic in a way that allows the driver to maintain safety. For example, they could stop speaking when something unexpected occurs or point out something dangerous the driver may not have noticed.

Still, this case shows distraction of any kind has the potential to be deadly. In this case, the boy’s aunt said the teen was fidgeting with a mirror on the outside rear of the vehicle. His mother was demanding that he close it. She turned to address her son, and soon after, her boyfriend, in the front passenger seat, called out her name to warn her they had crossed into the opposing lane. She reportedly over-corrected and lost control.

Both the woman’s son and boyfriend, a father of three, were killed on impact.

Police have not yet said whether they intend to bring charges against the woman, whose driving record is marked by multiple offenses, including a license revocation in 2005 for being a habitual offender after she repeatedly drove following suspensions for speeding and drunk driving. Alcohol is not believed to have been a factor in this crash.

Maine law forbids drivers under 18 from talking on cell phones and all drivers from texting behind the wheel. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that numerous other kinds of distraction can have serious consequences. A few listed include:

  • Talking to passengers
  • Eating and drinking
  • Reading (including maps)
  • Grooming
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting the music

Although drivers in their 20s comprise 27 percent of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes, other age groups may still be susceptible.

The federal agency estimates 421,000 people are injured annually in distracted driving crashes and more than 3,300 die.

If you are the victim of a Portland car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Driver in fatal accident says she was distracted, Oct. 22, 2014, By David Hench, Portland Press-Herald

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