Police: Texting Contributed To Crash That Killed Teenager

12:48 PM, May 15, 2010   |    comments
  • Ashley Johnson,16-Courtesy: Asheville Citizen-Times
  • Amos Johnson's 16-year-old daughter was killed trying to text and drive.
    
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Asheville, NC-- An Arden teenager killed in a car crash was retrieving a text message in the seconds before she veered across the center line and into oncoming traffic, police said Friday.

Ashley Johnson, 16, died Tuesday in the intensive care unit at Mission Hospital - a day after the crash on Long Shoals Road.

She was a 10th-grader at Buncombe County Early College, where students earn their high school diplomas while working toward an associate's degree.

Johnson was heading east in a BMW when the car crossed the center line and struck a Ford truck head-on.

Investigators believe speed also played a role in the crash. The car was traveling 52 mph in a 45 mph zone.

The driver of the Ford was injured but those were not life-threatening. No charges will be filed.

North Carolina made texting while driving illegal for all drivers in December, though few people have been ticketed since then. Law enforcement officers say the ban is difficult to enforce.

In Johnson's case, investigators determined she was getting a text message by examining her phone, Asheville police spokeswoman Melissa Williams said

Police had issued 221 citations in North Carolina through February, according to the state Administrative Office of Courts.

Of those charges, 41 have resulted in a conviction, which means a fine of $100 plus court costs.

A few Western North Carolina counties recorded one citation, with Henderson leading at four. Officers in Buncombe County filed no driving while texting charges as of February.

More recent statistics were not immediately available Friday.

Driving while texting has been cited in at least one other fatal crash in WNC.

Troopers suspect text messaging while driving played a role in a crash that killed six people in Brevard last year on U.S. 64.

Trooper Gene Williamson of the N.C. Highway Patrol said training is done in schools to get the message out about the dangers of texting and driving.

Police say a person can create and send a text message in 10-15 seconds. A car covers more than 80 feet per second at 60 mph, so one text message could equal a tenth of a mile that a driver is distracted.

Officers set up a traffic cone course and have students drive a golf cart while receiving and sending a text message. Most students plow into the cones.

The Highway Patrol has offered the training at schools in Haywood, Buncombe, Henderson and Madison counties.

Williamson said his agency also is trying to teach parents and driver education teachers about the dangers of being distracted by a phone or anything else that takes a driver's eyes off the road.

"This is just very tragic and I hope students will learn from this tragedy," he said.

About half of teens ages 16 and 17 say they have talked on mobile phones while driving, and about a third of those teens have handled text messages while behind the wheel, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project.

Related Articles:

In depth reports on NC texting law, citations by the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Click here to see crash scene photos from the Asheville Citizen Times.

Take the Pledge: Click on WFMY News 2 to see stories on our 'Great Hang Up' campaign. WFMY is asking you take the pledge to put down your cell phone while you are driving.

Asheville Citizen-Times/WFMY News 2

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