On Friday, Asheville Police disclosed that they had accessed the information stored in Ashley Johnson’s cellphone. Police investigators who examined the Arden teenager’s cellphone stated that the information showed that Johnson, 16, was retrieving a text message just seconds before the BMW she was driving crossed the center line and struck an MB Haynes pickup truck head-on. Investigators also retrieved data stored in Johnson’s vehicle’s airbag module to determine her pre-impact speed. The airbag module showed that the she was travelling 52 mph. The posted speed limit for Long Shoals Road is 45 mph. The driver of the pickup truck suffered injuries, but he is expected to recover.

Emergency workers airlifted Johnson to Mission Hospital’s Trauma Unit, and she remained in the Intensive Care Unit for several days before she eventually died from her injuries. This is a terrible tragedy that should never have happened.

The 10th grader was an exceptional and popular student. She attended Buncombe County Early College, where she was working toward earning her associate degree.

I have several prior posts about the deadly dangers associated with texting while driving. Unfortunately, many people feel that, if they are careful, they can safely text while they are driving. This is impossible. Several studies have shown that if you text while driving your attention level is worse than that of a drunk driver. In fact, a texting driver is 23 times more likely to have a deadly accident that a non-texting driver.

Several mobile applications (apps) are on the market to help us restrict our, and our teenage children who drive, impulse to text while driving. Applications that can deactivate a phone’s ability to send or receive texts while in motion are quite effective.

Several studies have also shown that more than 50% of teen drivers admit to texting while driving. In an informal study outside our offices on Pack Square in Asheville, we found that, out of the 25 people we interviewed between the ages of 18 and 26, almost 70% of them admitting to texting while driving in the last 2 months. The problem is serious, and unfortunately the law that makes texting while driving illegal is not really helping reduce its frequency. Law enforcement officials say that catching someone in the act is extremely difficult. Officers are instructed to be on the lookout for texting drivers, but the activity is easily concealed and tough for officers to spot.

The really scary part is that there is no way for someone like you or me, who tries to be responsible while driving, to protect ourselves or our family from this deadly risk. Driving has long been the most dangerous activity that we do on a daily basis, but with the cellphone, I believe the risk has certainly increased.

The biggest thing that I recommend is that you make sure that you have sufficient Under-Insured Motorist (UIM) insurance coverage of at least $250K , and if possible also purchase an Umbrella Policy that provides $1 Million in UIM coverage. This is so that if you or a loved one is in a serious accident, at least you or your family member will have the coverage you need for your harms and losses.

By way of example, I am currently representing a young man, 37, who was hit head-on by a texting driver. His medical bills exceed $300,000, and he is in a wheelchair. Doctors do not know whether he will ever walk again, and his chances of returning to work are slim at best. The texting driver who hit him only has $30,000 in coverage – the minimum required by law in North Carolina. Our client has $100,000 in UIM coverage (once thought to be sufficient), but, in a case with severe injuries like his, that is not nearly enough insurance coverage. My client will most likely end up with a court judgment that exceeds all insurance limits, but then we will begin the arduous task of trying to collect it from the individual. Talk to your insurance agent today. Make sure that you and your family are adequately protected.

If you would like to speak to an experienced accident attorney who knows how to gather the evidence that’s needed to prove not only how but also why an accident happened, then contact Asheville accident attorney Brian Davis.