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Texting incidents

The Augusta Chronicle: Texting incidents

Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010

Cell phone user paid fine, lost license points after fatal crash

COLUMBIA --- Ned Blackmon’s son, Monty, was killed in 2003 in Chesterfield County, in a crash involving a driver who was on her phone.

"This woman, she was charged $150 and four points for our son’s life," he told a panel of lawmakers last week, holding a photograph of his son, 35, who had children of his own.

Blackmon, of Lancaster, was one of nearly a dozen who spoke to a South Carolina House subcommittee on transportation, which is gathering input on a bill, H. 4282, that would prohibit texting or using a hand-held cell phone while driving.

"We’re not down here to get you to do that just because of our son," said Blackmon. "We would like to see it done because of the thousands of people out there that’s getting killed on account of these little mechanisms. It just don’t add up. It just don’t add up."

Rep. Don Smith, R-North Augusta, the panel chairman, said action on the bill could come as soon as this week.

Tom Crosby, a spokesman for AAA Carolinas, said 6,000 people were killed nationwide in 2008 because of distracted or inattentive drivers, and that 2,600 of those deaths were related to texting.

"If you’re texting, the driver’s eyes are off the road, your hands are off the wheel and their minds are not on the task at hand," Crosby said.

-- Sarita Chourey, Morris News Service

Family mourns teen who died in crash after multiple texts

The family of an 18-year-old Morgan County, Ga., man who died in a car crash while texting played a role in one of the bills that seeks to ban the distraction.

Caleb Sorohan, 18, was killed Dec. 15 when he crashed head-on into a Toyota Sequoia not far from his Rutledge, Ga., home while texting on his cell phone.

Sorohan, who graduated from high school in 2009, had a phone in his lap that he had used to send six texts just minutes before the collision, said Sallie Sorohan, his grandmother.

"To have a young life snuffed out like this in a matter of seconds, it’s traumatic, it really is. And it’s something none of us will ever get over," she said. "We want something good to come from this death. We don’t want others to suffer like we have."

At her urging, state Rep. Amos Amerson proposed legislation that would make texting while driving a misdemeanor, punishable by a $300 fine. State Rep. Allen Peake filed a similar bill, which would fine texting drivers up to $100 and put a two-point violation on their driving record. The two bills probably will be merged.

-- Associated Press

Teen drove car into telephone pole while he was sending text

LILBURN, Ga. --- A 19-year-old from Lilburn was injured Jan. 22 when he crashed his car into a telephone pole while sending a text message on his cell phone.

Lilburn police spokesman Bruce Hedley said Soheb Roy suffered head trauma. Roy was taken to Gwinnett Medical Center, where he was treated and released. Hedley said the impact had enough force to break the telephone pole in two.

Roy has a court date in March.

-- Associated Press

Settlements end lawsuits over cyclists killed by driver on cell

COLUMBIA --- A civil lawsuit in federal court involving a defendant who allegedly killed two bicyclists while driving and talking on a cell phone was settled hours before a trial was supposed to start last week.

The lawsuit over the 2007 death of bicyclist Thomas Hoskins, 49, of Columbia, was settled late Tuesday for an undisclosed amount, attorney Dick Harpootlian said.

A separate lawsuit involving the death of Lee Anne Barry, 43, Hoskins’ riding colleague, who was killed at the same time, was settled in December for $2.5 million in Lancaster County, according to court documents.

The exact amount of the Hoskins settlement will become public in a few weeks when it is approved by Judge Joe Anderson in open court, Harpootlian said.

In pretrial arguments, Harpootlian called cell phone driving "the new DUI."

At stake in Hoskins’ wrongful death action was $55 million worth of insurance coverage carried by the employer of Sharon King, 36, who was driving a Chrysler Pacifica when it struck Hoskins and Barry in Lancaster County in 2007.

At the time of the incident, the bicyclists had the right of way and there was little other traffic on the road, according to court papers.

King was not working at the time of the incident, but the Chrysler Pacifica she was driving belonged to her employer, whose insurance was $55 million, according to pretrial court documents.

Last week King pleaded guilty in Lancaster County criminal court to one count of reckless driving. She was fined the maximum of $200.

-- McClatchy Newspapers