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Two Orange High School juniors from Hillsborough, North Carolina were killed on Saturday, December 29, 2012, when their truck ran off the road at a high rate of speed and struck a tree. The students, William “Chase” Underhill and Kacie Leann Chamberlain, both 16, were pronounced dead at the scene of the collision on Little River Church Road in Orange County.

North Carolina Highway Patrol investigated the accident and reported that it occurred at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Saturday night. They indicated that speed was a factor in causing Underhill to lose control of his pickup. Two other teens, McCray Williams, 15, of Mebane and Sam Whaley, 16, also passengers in the pickup, were seriously injured and transported to Duke University Medical Center in Durham.

Troopers said that none of the teens were wearing seat belts.

Collin Lunsford, 17, is now facing multiple charges filed against him by the North Carolina Highway Patrol and being pursued by Orange County District Attorney Jeff Nieman. The charges are for prearranged speed competition, reckless driving and two counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle. All of the listed charges are misdemeanor offenses. Lunsford’s next court date is set for January 24, 2013.

Prearranged speed competition is the unlawful racing on streets and highways of the state, as provided under the North Carolina General Statutes, Section 20-141.3.

According to Trooper Stephan Foster, Lunsford was operating a 2005 Chevrolet 1500 and Underhill was driving a Ford F250 at speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour. Neither vehicle made contact prior to Underhill losing control and hitting the tree. Following the crash, Lunsford returned to the scene with his two passengers and called 911.

One of Underhill’s friends, Joe Rangel, talked to him before the accident and told him to drive safe. Underhill is the son of an Orange County EMS worker. He said he thought the accident happened when the teens were trying to pass each other on a curve going 100 miles per hour. Rangel related that the Whaley boy had sustained various serious injuries, including a broken collarbone, a fractured pelvis, a punctured lung and a back injury.

News of tragedies like this are especially difficult to hear, when perhaps lives could have been saved if these teens had been wearing their seat belts. Unfortunately, information compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms that accidents among teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 is higher than any other age group and four times higher than older drivers. Some factors leading to accidents for this age group are being a newly licensed driver, having passengers, speeding with risky maneuvers and no seat belts. All four factors were present in this accident.

If you have had to face a parent’s worst nightmare, the loss of a child or having one severely injured in a teen driving accident, you need to talk to a North Carolina attorney experienced in handling car/pickup accident cases.

Auger & Auger is a Charlotte law firm that has represented thousands of North Carolina residents who have lost children or seen them seriously injured in crashes. With over 40 years of collective experience, our attorneys and staff can help you through these difficult times.

Contact us online or call us direct at (704) 364-3361 or toll free at (800) 559-5741 to schedule your free consultation. Remember, you will never owe us a fee unless we make a recovery for you.

Other Resources:
Authorities tie Orange County fatal crash to illegal racing, News Observer, Article by Anne Blythe and Tammy Grubb, January 1, 2013

2 NC teens were killed during 100 mph racing crash, teen boy charged, troopers say, WBTV News, January 1, 2013

North Carolina General Statutes

Related Blog Posts:

Recently Released Data Confirms Benefits of Safety Restraints For Drivers of All Kinds of Vehicles, North Carolina Car Accident Attorney Blog, May 31, 2012

The First Day of School Claims Lives of Two Sophomores, North Carolina Car Accident Attorney Blog, September 5, 2012

Seatbelt

A tragic accident that happened in Columbus County, North Carolina is a reminder for everyone to “Buckle Up.”

On November 10, 2012 at approximately 6:30 p.m., Jesus Mondragon, 34, was driving his SUV. He had four passengers with him at the time, when he reportedly ran a stop sign at the intersection of NC 131 and Silver Spoon Road. According to news reports, he hit another vehicle being driven by Hannah Worley, 20. None of the six people involved in this crash were reported to be wearing seat belts.

Two young children in the back of Mondragon’s SUV were ejected during the collision and killed. They were Samantha Mondragon, 11, and Ashley Mondragon, 2. Investigators said that they believe their lives would have been saved if they had been properly restrained. North Carolina Highway Patrol Sgt. John M. Lewis determined that speed was not a factor. He said that the Mondragon SUV was traveling at about 55 miles per hour when it ran the stop sign and hit the other vehicle on NC 131 that had the right of way.

Sgt. Lewis went on to say that, “It’s the parent’s responsibility or their guardian or that person operating the vehicle to make sure that everyone is restrained. For children to be as innocent as they are, most just don’t know better. If they don’t practice it themselves, then these are the outcomes.” In this case, the impact of this collision and the reportedly forgotten seat belts will be with this family forever.

Statistics reveal that over half of the car crash fatalities involved people who were unrestrained. Without a doubt, wearing a seat belt is the single most effective way to survive a serious accident and usage is increasing across the country. Enforcement laws have resulted in increased usage of seat belts. Most states, including North Carolina, have what are called primary enforcement seat belt laws. Primary enforcement laws allow an officer to pull you over and give you a ticket for not being belted or for having unbelted passengers. Secondary enforcement states only allow officers to issue a citation for a seat belt violation if you have been pulled over for some other reason.

Statistics don’t lie! Don’t be in too much of a hurry or simply forget to make sure you and all of your passengers are securely belted. Having your seat belts on can protect you and your loved ones from needless injuries or death. Remember, the chances of survival after being ejected from a vehicle are slim.

If you or someone you know have suffered injuries of lost a loved one in a tragic car crash, you need to seek the advice of an experienced car accident attorney in North Carolina.

Auger & Auger has been experienced for nearly 40 years in representing the people of North Carolina involved in tragic car accidents. Our attorneys and caring staff can guide you every step of the way through this difficult time.

Contact us through our website or call our toll free number at (800) 559-5741 to schedule your no obligation consultation.

Our firm has five offices. Three are conveniently located in Charlotte and we have an office in Raleigh and Greensboro.We handle cases on a contingency basis so that you will never owe us a fee unless we make a recovery for you.

Other Resources:

Sisters killed in crash not wearing seat belts
, WWAY TV3 News, November 12, 2012

Injury Prevention & Control: Motor Vehicle Safety

Related Blog Posts:

Recently Released Data Confirms Benefits of Safety Restraints For Drivers of All Kinds of Vehicles, North Carolina Car Accident Attorney Blog, May 31, 2012

Unbelted Teen Dies In Crash, North Carolina Car Accident Attorney Blog, February 20, 2012

SeatbeltA 14 year old student athlete is dead following a Charlotte car accident involving a hit and run driver, and a driver who did not ensure that her passengers were properly restrained before getting on the road. Fourteen year old David Bell was killed when he was ejected from a vehicle operated by Ginna Stamps. Stamps was driving Bell and other teens home from a basketball game Saturday night when her vehicle was sideswiped by a vehicle that fled the scene. Stamps then lost control of her vehicle, skid across all lanes of I485, and hit the median, which caused her vehicle to flip, ejecting Bell and 2 other unrestrained teens. North Carolina Highway Patrol says it is following several leads to determine the identity of the hit and run driver.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the leading cause of death in the 3 to 14 year old age group is car accidents. A recent study has found that 46% of the nearly 5,600 children aged 14 and under that were killed in car accidents in 2008 were not properly restrained. It seems that almost every day, we read about young people who die in car accidents, and then we learn that their deaths likely could have been prevented had they buckled their seatbelts. Stamps, the parent of one of the teens ejected, and the person responsible for the safety of her passengers, was responsible to make sure all of her passengers were properly restrained before ever putting her car in drive. Even though Stamps was the victim of a hit and run, she is not without blame in the wrongful death of David Bell, and the serious injuries of the other teens that were ejected from her vehicle. At the moment, Stamps has only been charged with seatbelt violations, a mere 2 points on her license and a $25 fine, while Bell and his family are paying the ultimate price.

Our sympathies go out to David Bell’s family. It is difficult to understand the unnecessary loss of such a young life, and also difficult to determine who should be held responsible. An experienced North Carolina car accident attorney can sort through the details and obtain appropriate compensation.

Crumpled car after accidentA Wilmington car accident has taken the lives of three people, and a fourth is expected to survive. The single car accident occurred on Forest Hills Drive. An SUV being driven by 22 year old Raphael Samuel was caught on surveillance video traveling at a very high rate of speed through the Forest Hills neighborhood in Wilmington, just seconds before it crashed into a tree.

Samuel was not wearing a seatbelt, nor were his passengers, 21 year old Yashica White, and 25 year old Shatia Hankins, who were also killed in this violent crash. A fourth passenger, Demond Jones, is expected to survive.

Police believe Samuel was on drugs when he crashed into a tree, and are continuing their investigation to determine what role, if any, drugs or alcohol played in this accident. According to a Wilmington Police Officer, Samuel’s SUV was seen driving without headlights. The officer turned his patrol car around to follow, but did not activate its lights or siren. The officer reported that as he began to follow the SUV, it took off at a high rate of speed and was found moments later, crashed into a tree. Police estimate the SUV was traveling 85 mph on Forest Hills Drive, and was still going 80mph when it hit the tree. Forest Hills Drive has a posted speed limit of 25mph. There has been speculation that Samuel, a convicted felon, was fleeing from police.

Regardless of the reason Samuel was traveling so fast, these lives could have been spared had they only worn their seatbelts. There is no excuse for not being properly belted. Even pregnant women are advised to wear seatbelts. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that people between the ages of 16 and 24 have the lowest percentage of seatbelt use. Even more disturbing is the statistic that people in this age group represent not just the highest number of car accidents, but also the highest number of fatal car accidents.

So what happens when a driver or passenger is not wearing a seatbelt? Let’s say the car is traveling 60mph. When the car crashes, the vehicle is rapidly decelerating and the frame of the car begins to absorb most of the force of the impact. A driver or passenger who is not properly restrained, however, will continue moving forward at the original traveling speed of 60mph, until contact with a stationary object, such as steering wheel, dashboard, windshield, or ejection from the vehicle, forces them to stop. And if a driver or passenger is wearing a seatbelt? The force of the impact is distributed through the body, preventing the head or upper body from contacting the interior of the vehicle. So why would anyone refuse to buckle up?

In North Carolina, failure to wear a seatbelt does not prevent an injured person from recovering damages for their injuries. In fact, the families of the passengers in this wreck may have a claim against the driver for their injuries and wrongful death. For more information, call the experienced car accident attorneys at Auger & Auger for a free consultation.

Stop sign and Fasten seat belt signA Greensboro car accident has left two people hospitalized, and a toddler has died as the result of his injuries following ejection from the vehicle. On Thursday morning, North Carolina Highway Patrol responded to an accident near the Alamance-Guilford line on I40/85. The driver of the vehicle, Sherika Chandler, lost control of her vehicle, left the roadway, and flipped several times before coming to its final stop off of the roadway. Witnesses to the crash believe the front end of Chandler’s vehicle was in close proximity to the rear of a tractor trailer truck, but that there was no impact.

Troopers report that three of the vehicles six occupants were ejected from the vehicle. The injured passengers were initially taken to Alamance Regional Hospital, but were ultimately airlifted to other local hospitals, including Moses Cone Hospital. One of the 2 year old passengers has died from his injuries, having been ejected from the vehicle. Chandler, who has prior charges for speeding, driving with license revoked, and multiple charges for possession of drug paraphernalia, possession with intent to distribute a schedule III substance, sale and delivery of a schedule III substance, and possession with intent to distribute a schedule IV substance, has been charged with Driving with Revoked License, Failure to Maintain Lane Control, and Failure to Restrain a Child.

North Carolina law requires that the driver of a motor vehicle “shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway” and “the driver of any motor vehicle traveling upon a highway outside of a business or residential district and following another motor vehicle shall, whenever conditions permit, leave sufficient space so that an overtaking vehicle may enter and occupy such space without danger.” The general rule, and that which is promoted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, is that drivers should keep a distance of 1 car length for every 10 mph the vehicle is traveling. State Troopers report that Chandler was traveling 70 miles per hour at the time of the crash, and accordingly, should have left 7 car lengths between her vehicle and the tractor trailer truck.
Under North Carolina law, all occupants of a moving motor vehicle are required to be properly restrained, no matter where in the vehicle they are seated. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), reports that the leading cause of death for children in the 3 to 14 year old age group is car accidents, and that of the nearly 5,600 children below the age of 14 that were killed in car accidents in 2008, 46% were unrestrained. The study also found that fatalities in children between that ages of 1 and 4 were reduced by 54% with proper use of safety seats.

If you or a family has been injured while a passenger in a vehicle that was at fault in causing a car accident, the injury attorneys at Auger & Auger can help. Call (704)364-3361 for your free consultation.

Alcohol is poisonA North Carolina drunk driving accident has left 3 teens hospitalized after being ejected from a vehicle Sunday night. North Carolina State Troopers report that 17 year old Keegan Robinson, a junior at East Carteret High School, was under the influence of alcohol when he was driving too fast, ran off the roadway, and over corrected, causing his pickup truck to strike a ditch and flip. Robinson and his two passengers, also high school students, were ejected from the vehicle. Charges against Robinson are pending.

All three teens were initially transported to Carteret General Hospital but were subsequently airlifted to New Hanover Regional Medical Center for treatment of multiple broken bones, internal injuries, and head injuries. As of Wednesday, Robinson was still unconscious and in critical condition.

Hundreds of people attended a prayer service Tuesday at Cedar Island United Methodist Church. Hopefully, the members of this tight-knit community can identify the person who provided alcohol to these teens so that they can be held accountable.

This is the third North Carolina car accident this month that involved teens being ejected from vehicles for their failure to buckle up. In the early morning hours of January 7, 2012, Millbrook High School student Elizabeth Molloy was killed when drunk driver Garrett Prince crashed into a tree at a high rate of speed. Molloy was not wearing her seatbelt. On January 20, 2012, Riley Laymon was killed when the vehicle he was a passenger in flipped after the driver overcorrected after taking a turn too fast. Laymon was not wearing a seatbelt.

In the alcohol related accident that took the life of Elizabeth Molloy, police have arrested Anthony Du Juan Geter for his role in providing alcohol to the teens. Perhaps if more adults were held criminally responsible for providing teens with alcohol, there might be fewer teens dying in drunk driving accidents. There have been no reports as to whether police are investigating the source of the alcohol for the teens in this latest wreck.

The car accident attorneys at Auger & Auger urge you to discuss these above accidents with your teens and remind them they are not invincible, and it can happen to anyone. Even the best kids make mistakes. For a free consultation, call (704)364-3361.

In a completely preventable tragedy, a car accident in Union County took the life of Weddington High School student Riley Laymon. Four other students suffered serious injuries in the crash.

According to North Carolina State Troopers, a group of high school students were traveling on Antioch Road when the driver, 17 year old Robert Cooke III, lost control of the vehicle, a pickup truck, causing it to flip two times. Roads were wet Saturday, and Troopers believe Cooke was traveling too fast for conditions when he rounded a curve and went off the roadway, causing the truck to roll.

Cooke, who still had his provisional drivers license, was only lawfully allowed to have one passenger in the vehicle. He has been charged with Failure to Wear a Seatbelt, Failure to Comply with License Restrictions, and Misdemeanor Death by Motor Vehicle.

Four of the five passengers in this Cooke’s pickup truck were not wearing seatbelts. Three of the teens were completely ejected from the vehicle, and a fourth teen was partially ejected. Only the belted teen was not ejected, and she only suffered minor injuries and has already been released from the hospital.

Under North Carolina law, every occupant of a motor vehicle is required to use a seatbelt when the car is moving. It does not matter where in the vehicle the passenger is seated–the law requires all passengers to be belted. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that at least 13,000 lives each year are saved due to seatbelt use. Proper seatbelt use prevents the ejection of a vehicle occupant in a serious collision or rollover. It is a mystery why four out of five of these teens did not wear their seatbelts.

North Carolina law also requires that holders of a provisional license may not have more than 1 passenger when driving unsupervised. Robert Cooke only held a provisional license at the time of this accident, and by law, was limited to only 1 passenger, yet there were 4. The limitation on the number of passengers allowed in the vehicle of a provisional license holder is intended to reduce driver distraction. It is a mystery why Robert Cooke exceeded the legal number of passengers he was allowed to drive with his provisional license.

Troopers believe that Cooke was driving too fast for conditions when he rounded the curve of a wet Antioch Road on Saturday. This is simple inexperience. Often times, teen drivers believe that if the speed limit on a particular road is 45mph, that they must drive 45mph, and will fail to take into consideration other factors, such as weather or road conditions.

It is heartbreaking to read about the factors surrounding this incident, but how do we get our teens to buckle up and to follow traffic laws? That is what is really a mystery. We do our very best to instruct, guide and teach our children, but the bottom line is that even the very best and brightest kids make mistakes. Our sincere condolences go out to all the families involved in this tragedy.

Man in JailA Raleigh drunk driving car accident has left one teenager dead and another in jail. The Raleigh Police Department has charged 16 year old Garrett Prince, a student at Millbrook High School, with Felony Death by Motor Vehicle, Driving While Impaired, Open Container of Alcohol, Possession of Marijuana, and Driving After Consuming Alcohol While Underage.

Fellow Millbrook High School student Elizabeth Molloy was killed when Prince rounded a curve at a high rate of speed and struck a tree. Police estimate that Prince was driving at approximately 75 miles per hour when he crashed. It is likely that Molloy would have survived the crash had she been wearing her seatbelt. Prince, who was also not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected from the vehicle.

The accident occurred around 2am Friday morning after the teens left a party in the neighborhood where Prince crashed. Police found several empty alcoholic beverage bottles in Prince’s vehicle.

This accident is a tragedy that could easily have been prevented. It has been reported that Prince was driving with a provisional drivers license. Holders of a level 2 provisional license are prohibited from driving after 9 pm unless they are driving to or from work.

Neither teen was wearing a seatbelt. North Carolina law requires every passenger of a moving motor vehicle to be properly restrained. The fact is that seatbelts do save lives. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seatbelts save more than 13,000 lives annually.

There has also been speculation that Elizabeth Molloy knew that Garrett Prince had been drinking alcohol in the hours leading up to the crash. Under North Carolina law, if the passenger in a drunk driving accident new the driver had been drinking, that passenger will be considered partially responsibly, and may be prevented from recovering damages from the drunk driver.

It is always difficult to read about lives lost, particularly when it can be prevented. As parents, we can make sure our children have the car home by 9 if they hold a provisional license. Although there is no curfew in Raleigh, parents can set and enforce a reasonable curfew for their teens. As for our teens, in spite of our best efforts, they are still capable of making poor choices. Like not wearing a seatbelt. Like getting into a car with a driver that had been drinking.

For your free consultation about a drunk driving accident in North Carolina, call Auger & Auger at (704)364-3361.

A North Carolina car accident has left a child in critical condition after being ejected from a vehicle. Four year old Gilbert Garcia Torres was thrown from a vehicle Sunday morning when a Toyota Camry hit a Ford Explorer so hard that it came to a rest on its side, with the ejected child trapped beneath it. Bystanders were able to lift the SUV off the child.

Police are still investigating and trying to determine how the child was ejected. North Carolina law requires the driver and all passengers of a motor vehicle to wear seatbelts, and all children under the age of 8 to be secured in a child passenger restraint system.

Hendersonville Police Captain Doug Jones reports that Torres’ condition is improving.

A 12 year old Georgia boy was not as lucky, and did not survive after being ejected from the family SUV in a wreck on I85 near Commerce, GA on Friday. Georgia law only requires that front seat passengers wear seatbelts. Devin Pierce, a rear seat passenger, was ejected when the Ford Excursion he was a passenger in suffered the blowout of a rear tire and struck a guard rail.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the leading cause of death for children between 3 to 14 years of age is motor vehicle accidents.

The injury attorneys at Auger & Auger urge you to keep yourself and your family safe. Buckle up! Keep seatbelts where they belong-secured across the rib cage and around the pelvis, and make sure children are properly buckled in age appropriate child restraint systems.

The Charlotte, North Carolina car accident attorneys at Auger & Auger remind you that North Carolina Law requires that drivers and all passengers of a motor vehicle wear seatbelts, and that children under the age of 8 must be properly restrained in an appropriate car seat.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has declared the week of September 18-24, 2011 as Child Passenger Safety Week. According to Seatcheck.org, up to 70% of car seats are not properly installed. To find a child car seat inspection station near you, click here.

According to NHTSA, the leading cause of death for children between 3 to 14 years of age is motor vehicle accidents, and on average, 4 children die each day in a car accident. Of the 5,598 children killed in car accidents in 2008, 46% were not wearing seatbelts. NHTSA recommends that all children under the age of 13 ride in the back seat.

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