Three fatal collisions with teenage involvement

Highway Patrol stepping up its enforcement
Jun. 15, 2013 @ 05:34 AM

Three fatal collisions have occurred in Rutherford County in the past month and all three had teenage involvement.

Due to these accidents, North Carolina Highway Patrol is taking additional steps to become more proactive with its enforcement and education, said Trooper Jason Spence on Friday afternoon.

The first wreck of the three occurred on May 15 on Bostic Sunshine Highway, claiming the life of 19-year-old Matthew Lail.

The second fatal occurred on Thursday, June 6, as 2013 Rutherford Opportunity Center graduate Tyler Watkins sustained fatal injuries in a collision on Salem Church Road in Bostic. He died Sunday, June 9. 

On Thursday afternoon a 76-year-old veteran volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, Jerry Jones,died when the motorcycle he was driving was hit by a Chevrolet pick-up truck driven by 19-year-old Caleb Owens of Rutherfordton. Jones died at the scene. Owens crossed the center line and hit the motorcycle.

Watkins was driving a Ford Ranger when it left the roadway and struck a tree. His passenger, James Bowen, was hospitalized. Lail was a passenger in a vehicle driven by C.J. Sappenfield when the vehicle went out of control and crashed off the side of the road.

“These wrecks not only involved teens, but there was also a common thread that they all happened on secondary roads,” Spence said. “They have not been on US74B, U.S. 221 or US 64. They’ve been on the back roads.”

Spence said the NCHP is increase its enforcement activities on the secondary roads. 

“People aren’t using their restraints. They are not wearing seat belts,” Spence said.

The NCHP is prepared and ready to combat the trends, whether it be on one of the county’s high collision corridors or on a back road.

With summer just beginning, the traveling season is increasing and troopers are being vigilant with its goal is to have voluntary compliance of the rules and regulations of driving regarding speed, alcohol use and restraint.

He reminds all drivers in Rutherford County to be diligent and to drive defensively.

Spence said the three fatal accidents in the past month had their own scenarios, but they all resulted in death.

In the recent past, the highway patrol’s educational programs concentrated on teenage drivers, motorcycle awareness and driver distractions.

 “Part of our work plan was to target the teen drivers, motorcycle awareness and driver distractions,” he said. “We were very pleased that we had no teen or motorcycle fatalities in 2012.”

The mission of the NCHP has not changed and it will continue to be proactive and turn its attention to the less traveled roads for more enforcement. 

“This is just a tragedy ... Everybody understands that driving is a complex task.”