Driver was texting just before wreck on I-540
Posted November 14, 2013
Morrisville, N.C. — The North Carolina State Highway Patrol says a Cary man traveling on Interstate 540 Thursday morning was texting when he lost control of his SUV and hit two cars, sending a woman to a local hospital and snarling traffic for hours.
Highway Patrol spokesman 1st Sgt. Jeff Gordon said Aaron Artis, 26, of 12310 Residence Circle, was driving west in the far-left lane of I-540 near Aviation Parkway shortly before 9:30 a.m. when he looked down at his phone to read a text message, looked up and then swerved to avoid hitting a vehicle that had slowed down because of a traffic delay.
Artis swiped the side of a Toyota Corolla, overcorrected and then drove into the median, hitting a Volkswagen Passat that was parked in the median because of a flat tire.
The Corolla's driver, Laura Labdon, of Raleigh, was taken to Duke University Hospital, where she was listed in serious condition Thursday evening.
Adriana Sepulveda, of Raleigh, who was standing outside the Passat was slightly injured. Her 6- and 10-year-old sons were not hurt.
"We were thrown, maybe, 20, 30 feet," said Donovan Quesenberry, who had stopped to help Sepulveda. He was under her car changing the tire when the wreck happened.
Quesenberry said he first checked on Sepulveda and her children and then then ran to try to help Labdon.
"We were able to crawl through the wreckage on the passenger side and try to, at least, let her know that help was on the way," he said.
Artis, Gordon said, was cited with texting while driving and failure to maintain lane control.
"It reiterates and brings to point the dangers of distracted driving," Gordon said.
Texting while driving – including reading messages on handheld devices – has been against the law in North Carolina since 2009 and carries a minimum fine of $100 per violation.
According to AAA, a driver using a cellphone has the same deficient motor skills as someone with a 0.08 blood-alcohol level.
Quesenberry said Thursday's wreck should be a strong reminder to others about the dangers of texting and driving.
"It happens every single day," he said. "Everybody sees the commercials on TV – no texting and driving – and it does happen."