The night of November 3, 2014, a semi slammed into the side of a car on Highway 109 in Sumner County.
Inside the car, four high school students were returning from a bowling match.
Two of the teenagers, identified as Kayla Perdue and Austin Osborne, were killed while two others suffered significant, life-changing injuries, authorities said.
The driver of the semi was not charged but in a lawsuit filed by the families of the teenagers killed, Attorney Rocky McElhaney argued the semi driver was distracted.
“We just feel like if he had not been on his cell phone driving a tractor-trailer truck at a dangerous intersection that maybe that wreck doesn’t happen or maybe those kids aren’t killed,” McElhaney told News 2.
Though the details of a settlement in the case are confidential, McElhaney said records proved the semi driver was using his cell phone against company policy.
“Quite honestly, cell phone use while driving is an epidemic in the United States,” McElhaney explained. “We had a call come in yesterday of a one-vehicle crash where a driver severely hurt passengers in her car because, as she was driving, she was FaceTiming with someone else.”
According to the latest numbers from the CDC, an estimated nine people are killed in the U.S. and more than 1,000 are injured daily as a result of distracted driving, which can also include the use of navigation and eating while behind the wheel.
“Cell phone use is the most common distracted driving, whether that’s texting or talking,” McElhaney said.
Some drivers will refuse to admit they were on their cell phones while driving and have even tried to get rid of the evidence.
“What’s important for drivers to understand is even if they delete the messages, even if they delete their call records, they’re not deleting the data,” McElhaney explained. “The footprint is created and lawyers like me can get that information.”
Forensic analytical companies have the ability to download even deleted messages, the attorney told News 2.
“Say a teen was in a crash and was texting at the time, and they grab the phone and started wiping stuff out. That wouldn’t get rid of it. There would be a digital footprint,” McElhaney said. “Lawyers like me will get the information from the car, the black box of the car, and we’ll match it with the black box of the phone and it’ll prove 100-percent whether the driver was on the phone in some way— texting or talking.”
Preventing distracted driving crashes, McElhaney said all comes down to education.
“If you text and drive, or if you use your phone, sooner or later, you’re going to have a wreck and then the question is do you kill someone or do you kill yourself?” McElhaney explained.
For more information on Rocky McElhaney and the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, click here