A wreck that involved three vehicles near Duke University on the morning of February 23, 2018, left one woman dead and sent three people, including the at-fault driver, to hospitals with serious injuries. The deadly chain-reaction crash happened just before 6:45 am at the interchange between NC 147/Durham Freeway and U.S. 15-501.
According to Durham Police, a pickup driver lost control as he merged onto U.S. 15-501 and crashed into an SUV. That impact knocked a wheelchair lose from the bed of the pickup, and the wheelchair landed on a car.
All three drivers suffered injuries. A 67-year-old female passenger in the SUV died. Charges for reckless and careless driving and for causing a death while operating a motor vehicle have been file against the man who was driving the pickup.
According to section 20-140 of the North Carolina General Statutes specifies that
- Any person who drives any vehicle upon a highway or any public vehicular area carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others shall be guilty of reckless driving.
- Any person who drives any vehicle upon a highway or any public vehicular area without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property shall be guilty of reckless driving.
Committing a traffic violation like this one is necessary for getting charged with what amounts to vehicular homicide. And the existence of both charges gives the family of the passenger who lost her life strong grounds for filing wrongful death claims against the at-fault driver. Convictions will not be needed, but all the evidence collected by the police for a potential prosecution can be used to substantiate insurance claims or a civil lawsuit.
In addition to highlighting the dangers of reckless driving in the most tragic way, this chain-reaction crash on U.S. 15-501 in Durham calls attention to the risks of transporting unsecured loads. The driver of the car was not directly involved in the wreck, but she was seriously injured by a flying wheelchair. She would have been spared considerable pain, possible disability and an expensive hospital stay if the chair had been properly secured in the bed of the pickup.
My Carolina wrongful death attorney and personal injury lawyer colleagues and I urge every driver to tie down or cover all items before transporting them. Even without a crash, a loose item can easily become a life-threatening projectile or a hazard in the roadway.