The cell phone video is shaky, but it clearly displays the speed of the Volkswagen Golf – first 82.6 mph. A young woman, the front seat passenger, is heard giggling over the pulsing club music as the young male driver roars the engine and the vehicle works its way up to 115.6 mph. The film, just 10 seconds long, was posted to SnapChat, just moments before the 22-year-old driver and his 19-year-old passenger were killed, along with a mother and the youngest two of four children in the car with her, ages 9 and 10. iphone

The video is at once tragic and infuriating.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol have launched an investigation into the collision, which occurred on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near Coconut Palm Drive. The 22-year-old driver had been traveling westbound, while the other vehicle was traveling eastbound. For reasons authorities say are not entirely clear, the 22-year-old driver crossed over the median and slammed head-on into the other vehicle, a minivan carrying a mother and four children.The minivan caught fire upon impact. 

The VW Golf, meanwhile, spun around and then slammed into another car, a Toyota Scion. Debris from that collision then struck another vehicle, a BMW 3-series.

At the scene of the car accident, the 39-year-old mother was pronounced dead, as was the 22-year-old driver and his 19-year-old girlfriend. The 9- and 10-year-old were transported to a local hospital, where they too died. The fourth- and fifth-graders attended Mango Elementary School. Their other two passengers, 15 and 18, were transported to the same hospital in critical condition. A family member said the mother was driving home with her three children and a relative visiting from Columbia.

A friend of the younger driver later told news reporters that he and his friends had been go-cart racing just before the crash.

There is no evidence at this point that alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash. Our Miami car accident attorneys recognize, based on what we know so far of this case, that there were two factors we see in so many traffic injury cases:

  • Speed
  • Distraction

Let’s start with speed, which not only affects the severity of a crash, but also increases the risk of being involved in a crash in the first place. A 2006 study published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention indicates the risk of a crash increases sharply with an increase in speed, and this is true on both major and minor roads. Without exception, vehicles that moved much faster than other traffic had a much higher crash rate.

Combine that with distraction, and the odds are exponentially higher. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that every year, 3,200 are killed and another 431,000 are seriously injured in car accidents involving drivers who are distracted. In this case, we have a driver who may not personally have been holding an electronic device, but we do know that interaction with passengers can be a huge source of distraction – particularly for younger drivers. That’s why so many graduated driver’s license laws prohibit younger drivers from transporting beyond a certain number of underage passengers.

This isn’t the first time this SnapChat feature has come under fire either. In Georgia, a 19-year-old driver who recorded herself on the app reportedly traveling 107 mph and soon after caused a collision that resulted in the other driver suffering serious brain injuries. The teen was arrested, while the other driver sued SnapChat, alleging the technology company encouraged users by to engage with the devices while driving by doling out “points” for recording their speed.

This kind of evidence can be used in subsequent civil cases to establish fault on the part of a driver, which is one important step toward accountability and recovery of damages.

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

115.6 MPH Snap posted by girlfriend of driver that caused fatal crash that killed 5 people, Oct. 26, 2016, By Michael Paluska, ABC Action News

More Blog Entries:

Quinn v. CP Franchising – Coming and Going Rule in Workers’ Compensation Claims, Oct. 26, 2016, Florida Car Accident Lawyer Blog