A California Highway Patrol officer was looking down at his computer when he caused a fatal rear-end crash in Orland, KCRA-TV reported. Weston Sites, 15, a student as Willows High School, was pronounced dead at the scene. The CHP officer, identified only as a 49-year-old Willows man, was driving his patrol vehicle the afternoon of June 8, 2016 north on the Interstate 5. While nearing a construction zone south of the County Road 20 over-crossing in Orland, the officer failed to stop in time to avoid the vehicles stopped in front of him.
A CHP sergeant said the officer was looking down at his computer and couldn’t stop in time to avoid crashing into a 2013 Hyundai. Sites was a rear-seat passenger in that vehicle. Two other teens, both Sites’s sisters, were in the car. They escaped with minor injuries as did the CHP officer, a 20-year veteran of the department. The accident still remains under investigation. If the officer is found at fault, the findings will be forwarded to the Glenn County District Attorney’s office, officials said. A separate investigation team is working to determine the officer’s actions leading up to the crash.
Dangers of Driving While Distracted
It is against California law to operate a motor vehicle while distracted. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, 80 percent of vehicle crashes involve some sort of driver inattention. Distracted driving is anything that takes your eyes off the road, hands of the wheel or mind away from the task of driving. About 3,000 people are killed each year as a result of distracted driving. When a driver takes his or her eyes off the road for five seconds at 55 mph, that’s enough time to travel the entire length of a football field.
In this particular case, we hope a thorough and investigation is completed into the circumstances of the fatal crash. If the CHP officer is determined to have been distracted and therefore negligent at the time of the crash, he and his employer can be held liable because he was on the job at the time. In such cases victims’ families may be able to file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault parties seeking compensation for damages such as funeral expenses, pain and suffering, lost future income and loss of love and companionship.
An experienced California personal injury attorney who has experience pursuing governmental agencies on behalf of injured victims and their families would be able to help seek and obtain fair compensation for the damages and losses endured in such cases.