A 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.