Distracted Driver Causes Three-Car Crash On I-81
New York is one of many states that has made texting while driving a primary offense. Previously, it was a secondary offense, which meant that police could only pull over a texting driver if they witnessed another traffic violation. Now, a police officer can pull a driver over if they are observed texting. The penalties for texting while driving are a fine of up to $200 and 5 points on the person’s driver’s license. The law appears to be working; in 2017 there were 17,508 citations issued for texting while driving. This number is up 49% from the previous year when there were 11,736 tickets issued.
The crash occurred on Tuesday, September 10th at about 8:30 p.m. on northbound Interstate 81.
An investigation into the accident found that 22-year-old Darien H. Hill was “preoccupied” with her cell phone while driving a 2005 Chevrolet Malibu. It is unknown at the time what Hill was doing on her cell phone.
Hill swerved her vehicle to avoid a 2019 Toyota truck that was being driven by 50-year-old Joseph F. Thompson. She lost control of the car and slammed into the truck, then struck a guardrail. Her vehicle came to a rest facing south in the northbound lane.
21-year-old Amber Mitchell was driving northbound when she came upon the accident and was unable to stop. She hit Hill’s vehicle, then veered into the driving lane, striking a tow truck.
Mitchell suffered from serious internal injuries and was taken to Upstate University Hospital. There were two passengers in Mitchell’s car, 21-year-old Maddison A. Johnson and a 1-year-old infant were also transported to the hospital.
Hill was given traffic tickets for operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile phone, second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, and third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.