Cell phone use a factor in morning collisions

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LA VISTA, Neb. (WOWT) - La Vista Police are reminding drivers to put their cell phones away when they get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

One initial crash set off a series of collisions Tuesday morning at South 114th Street and Giles Road, and police said cell phones were partially to blame.

"Between about 7:55 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. there was a total of about seven crashes," Sgt. Brian Stolley with La Vista Police said. "We did have one police cruiser get it — it was minor damage — while he was trying to get to one of the secondary crashes. Person came into the back of that cruiser that had its lights on."

Stolley said it was a combination of events that caused all the commotion, but that cell phones were one of the factors.

"I saw people on their phones. They weren't paying attention, they weren't slowing down enough for the conditions that were out there with that wind and open area with the drifting snow blowing across it. It was icing back over really quick this morning, and people weren't prepared," the sergeant explained.

Stolley went on to explain that because drivers were on their phones, they weren't ready to slow down for traffic caused by crashes and road conditions.

Susan Booth is all too familiar with the topic of distracted driving.

"She was 12 and a distracted driver ran a red light and plowed into their van, took her life and changed a whole lot of us," Booth said.

She lost her niece, Ashley Wooden, to a distracted driving accident 11 years ago.

"Ashley had the potential to change a lot of lives as a 12-year-old. I don't know that I know anyone that had the love of Christ that she does," the emotional aunt said.

Booth is now with National Safety Council Nebraska. She is reminded of her niece every time she sees someone on their phone while driving.

"Absolutely. You see somebody on their phone, you see someone just blow through a red light because they didn't see it, they didn't notice it, they didn't pay attention," Booth said.

The Nebraska Legislature has introduced bills in the past to make distracted driving a primary offense, but the bills failed to advance; LB40 was filed for the 2019 session. A primary offense would give law enforcement the right to pull drivers over if they witness them on the phone while driving.

Currently, drivers cannot be cited for being on their phones unless they're pulled over for another offense.

Work crews salted the slick spots on Giles Road, but police said the salt won't help if drivers don't pay attention.

All of the damages and injuries in the morning crashes were minor.

Source: Nebraska Department of Transportation