The driver who hit and killed a road crew worker on I-95 south of Petersburg, Virginia (VA), admitted to looking down and taking her eyes off the road in the seconds before the fatal collision. This latest deadly distracted driving crash happened at around 11:15 am on February 3, 2018.
The deceased victim has been identified as 25-year-old Dustin Michael Warden, of Carson, VA. He was working as a contractor for the Virginia Department of Transportation at the time of the collision, setting up cones to mark a temporary work zone about 3 miles north of the exit from I-95 to State Route 602/Cabin Point Road.
State troopers also identified the at-fault driver as 27-year-old Samantha C. Hughes, of Wilmington, North Carolina (NC). She faces a preliminary charge of reckless driving, which indicates that crash scene investigators believe she was operating her vehicle in a way that was likely to endanger other people.
Becoming distracted behind the wheel is one of the most frequent cause of reckless driving. Putting one’s visual and mental focus on anything other than staying in one’s lane and responding appropriately to changes in traffic flow or road conditions greatly increases the risks for all kinds of driving errors. And the types of distractions for drivers abound.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rightly treats distracted driving as a major public health threat, which this tragedy on the interstate through Prince George County, VA, proves. The agency notes that while testing on a smartphone is particularly dangerous, “anything that takes your attention away from driving can be a distraction … [including] talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system, and eating while driving.”
The Governors Highway Safety Association advocates for the adoption of strict laws against texting while driving and against using handheld electronic devices behind the wheel. The group recently noted on its website that “in 2016, distracted driving was reported in crashes that killed 3,450 people (9.2 percent of all fatalities).” And, because law enforcement and accident reporting vary across states, that almost definitely understates the deadly outcomes of distracted driving.
My Virginia wrongful death attorney colleagues and I send our deepest condolences out to the family and friends of the VDOT contractor who lost his life in this avoidable tragedy. We urge all drivers to keep their eyes and minds on the road to the maximum extent possible, especially while traveling at highway speeds and while approaching work zones. It only takes a few seconds of distraction to make a deadly error.