A head-on collision in Gaston County, North Carolina (NC), on the evening of April 4, 2018, left an elderly man dead, his wife critically injured and a 16-year-old driver facing multiple criminal charges. The deadly crash happened on Patrick Road in the Eagles Walk community.
According to state troopers, a teen identified as Dylan Gibbs went left of center on a curve while traveling at a high rate of speed around a curve on Patrick Road near its intersection with Union Road. He was reportedly going 75-80 mph in a 45 mph zone. Gibbs then collided with the car being driven by Jackson Meek.
State police further reported that Mr. Meek died from his injuries despite being taken to CaroMont Regional Medical Center. Nellie Meek survives, but needed to be transferred to Carolinas Medical Center for lifesaving surgery.
Gibbs has now been charged by police with misdemeanor death by vehicle and careless and reckless driving.
The reported facts about the deadly head-on collision indicate that the teen driver violated both provisions of North Carolina’s law against reckless driving. Section 20-140 of the General Statutes reads,
- 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.
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research has revealed that teens are significantly more likely to cause a crash during their first year behind the wheel than at any other time. Further, according to the foundation, “failure to reduce speed, inattention, and failure to yield -- accounted for 57 percent of all crashes in which teens were at least partially responsible during their first month of licensed driving.”
In other words, inexperienced drivers are most likely to act negligently or recklessly behind the wheel, which puts everyone else on the road in real danger.
Statistics compiled by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles prove this. During 2016, the agency recorded 50,723 crashes involving teens between the ages of 15 and 19. While the teen was not the driver in each of those instances, it is revealing to note that 14,443 were related to speeding and another 10,053 were related to “lane departure.” If even just two-thirds or a half of the teen-involved crashes were caused by drivers younger than 20, this shows that youth, lack of experience and the sense of invulnerability and ignoring of consequences that come with both set the stage for thousands of collision each year.
Sadly, the risk became tragically real for an elderly couple in Gaston County. My Carolina personal injury and wrongful death attorney colleagues and I send our condolences out to the friends and family Mr. Meeks, and we wish the injured and grieving Mrs. Meeks a full and rapid recovery.
While holding the at-fault driver financially accountable for the irretrievable loss and undeserved suffering he inflicted by filing insurance claims or civil lawsuits will be possible, the better outcome from this wreck on Patrick Road will be convincing teens to slow down and remain focused on the road ahead while driving.