The Truck Driver's Criminal Charges were Dismissed

Our seventeen year old son, Justin Nash, had gone to Gatlinburg at the invitation of sixteen-year-old Josh Beddingfield, one of his close friends from church. Josh’s aunt, forty seven year old Connie Beddingfield, wanted to take the boys to celebrate the end of another school year. Seventy year old Jeannine Crawford, went along at Connie’s invitation. As they were returning home, they were stopped because of road construction on interstate 75 south of Knoxville. A semi-truck hit them from behind, crushing them into another truck. All four were killed.

According to witnesses, they had been setting still for a long time when the truck hit. No reason has ever been given by Roger Walker (who was driving a truck owned by Mercer Trucking, of Moultrie, Georgia) for why he did not stop in time. The weather was clear and sunny, and the road was flat with thousands of feet of visibility. Unlike most cases where a truck driver falls asleep and does not even touch his brakes before impact, this driver did try to stop, locking his brakes, but not until he was only about fifty feet from the stopped traffic.

The driver of the truck that killed our son and 3 other members of our church, was charged with 4 counts of "Negligent Homicide". We were told these charges were filed because lack of any obvious reason for him not stopping.

After hearing the case in a Preliminary Hearing, the Judge did not hold the case over to the Grand Jury and all Criminal charges were dropped. We were devastated. We did not want vengeance, we wanted justice. How Ironic that Justin's name means "Justice" and yet there would be none for his wrongful death.

The District Attorney was nice to us, but it was obvious that he did not take much time on our case. It may be hard for us to imagine today, but in times past, drunk driving was seen as just 'something the people are going to do' and the wrecks and deaths caused by it were 'just an accident', It took years for the Justice System to evolve to the point that it actively prosecuted cases of DUI and cracked down on drunk driving.         ( See )

In much the same way, the criminal justice system at this time does not often pursue traffic cases that involve negligence unless there are drugs, alcohol, or speeding involved. The Marion County, Tennessee judge made the statement that “even if we could prove that the driver feel asleep, it would not considered negligent.” In the end he was making the point that it was just an 'accident'.

This was not "accident". The Department of Transportation has started a campaign to limit the use of the term 'accident' because of the connotation that it leaves that the incident could not have been prevented. They prefer to use the word 'wreck' or 'crash', instead. Almost all wrecks are the caused by carelessness or some other preventable circumstance. A true "Accident" is one that could not have been prevented and one were not one is responsible. 

This link is to a press release about discontinuing the use of the word 'Accident"

Fatigue among professional truck drivers is the cause of many wrecks and it is preventable. 

This link leads to a very good paper by the NHTSA on  drowsy drivers