A Midlothian, Virginia (VA), family suffered an unimaginable loss when their 17-year-old daughter died in a four-vehicle chain-reaction crash on I-95 in Hanover County. The deadly August 22, 2017, wreck also left the teen’s father with serious injuries and another driver facing charges.
Virginia State Police investigators told reporters that the tragedy started with a rear-end collision about a mile north of the Sliding Hill Road exit from I-95 South. Getting struck from behind pushed the victims’ car into the back of another vehicle, inflicting fatal injuries on the high school student in the passenger seat. Multiple news outlets have identified the injured and grieving father as Scott Garka, a graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia and president of CultureWorks Richmond.
It is unclear what traffic violation the at-fault driver committed. Two common charges that result from a pileup like this are following too closely and driving while distracted. Driver fatigue may also have played a role. Falling asleep at the wheel would not be unheard of in a crash that happened after 11 pm.
As specified by section 46.2-816 of the Virginia Code
The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard to the speed of both vehicles and the traffic on, and conditions of, the highway at the time.
Failing to spot and respond appropriately to sudden changes in traffic flow often lead drivers to follow to closely. People can become distracted behind the wheel in many ways and for many reasons. In its online summary of data and research on distracted driving, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that three problems occur:
- Visual -- taking your eyes off the road;
- Manual -- taking your hands off the wheel; and
- Cognitive -- taking your mind off of driving.
The CDC continues: “Anything that takes your attention away from driving can be a distraction. Sending a text message, talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system, and eating while driving are a few examples of distracted driving. Any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others.”
During 2015, an estimated 391,000 people suffered injuries in distracted driving crashes on U.S. roads and highways. Another 3,477 people lost their lives in such wrecks.
My Virginia wrongful death attorney colleagues and I urge everyone to stay focused on the task of driving safely at all times. Even a few seconds of distraction can make a deadly collision like this one on I-95 in Hanover County impossible to prevent.