For so many families, today, Aug. 1, 2019, is a bittersweet day.
They are the families of those killed by distracted drivers. The survivors of ones who are gone because a driver couldn’t put the phone down instead of sending the next text. Those who are left behind because someone had to watch a video, or download a call.
In Wright County, it might as well be called “Phillip’s Law.” Young Phillip Lavelle, just 19, was running on Wright County Highway 19 when he was struck by a distracted driver. So hard, he came out of his shoes. So fast, he was gone in the blink of an eye.
A memorial to the decorated runner, who was an All-Mississippi 8 selection from Monticello High School and would have been a collegiate athlete at South Dakota State University in the fall of 2013, still hangs on the telephone pole near the accident site. Six years later.
A 5K in Phillip’s honor has raised thousands of dollars for families – a community remembering their young phenom and passing it forward to those in shock and hurt just like they were more than a half a decade ago.
The young man was just out for a run.
Investigations showed crash data recovered from the van that hit him showed the vehicle was traveling at around 63.5 mph (in a 55 mph zone) and did not change speeds for five seconds prior to the crash. Officers indicated this was likely due to the use of the vehicle’s cruise control.
The data recorder also showed the driver did not apply the brakes after crossing over the center line, nor were any recordings of “avoidance maneuvers” shown.
Detectives, the complaint continues, also obtained cellular phone records from the driver’s device, indicating a cell phone did receive a call around the same time as the accident. Officers and investigators concluded that call was not answered, rather it went to voicemail.
It was enough to distract the driver long enough that control of the vehicle was lost. And so was Phillip.
For those who drive cars older than 2013, when hands-free connections were first installed into vehicles, it’s time to buy some headphones. They’re about 15 bucks at Target.
For the rest of you – there’s no excuse. Turn the Bluetooth on and go.
Put the phone down.
It’s the law.