Local News

Wrecked car at State Fair is visceral warning of texting dangers

Posted October 23, 2010 2:41 p.m. EDT
Updated October 23, 2010 11:10 p.m. EDT

— An Asheville father hopes that viewing the car that his 16-year-old daughter died in will send a message to visitors to the State Fair: Texting while driving can be deadly.

On May 10, Ashley Johnson was going to an after-school volunteer session when she got a text message on her cell phone. State troopers said she tried to read the text.

"That's all it took – a second," her father Amos Johnson said.

Ashley's car crossed the center line and collided with a pickup truck. The impact separated her brain stem from her spine, her father said, and the next day, Ashley died.

"The day that she died, a part of me died too," Johnson said.

Five months later, Ashley's crumpled BMW is on display at the North Carolina State Fair.

The point is to make people ask a question: Is a text really that important?

It seems that way to many teenagers, according to a AAA survey.

Forty-six percent of the teens surveyed said they text while driving, and 51 percent admitted to talking on the phone while driving.

Both practices continue despite a statewide ban on texting while driving in North Carolina. State law also bans teenagers from using a cell phone at all while driving.

"That's why we have the law saying you can't be texting and driving or sending and receiving e-mails while driving, because it distracts you from the road," Sgt. Joe Brewer, with the state Highway Patrol, said.

Johnson visited his daughter's crumpled car at the Highway Patrol's display at the State Fair. It was the first time he'd seen it since the wreck that killed her.

"Somebody's going to see this car, and they're going to stop texting and driving. I know they will," he said.