Abby Sletton, 20 of Traill County, North Dakota appeared court on Wednesday, charged with negligent homicide as a result of a car crash on May 27 on I-29, resulting in the death of 89 year-old Phyllis Gordon of Minnesota.
Prosecuting Attorney Stuart Larson alleges that Sletton was viewing photographs on Facebook via her mobile phone when the SUV driven by Jennifer Meyers slowed in front of her to make a turn off the highway. Sletton struck the rear of the SUV with her Ford Escape, never having applied her brakes.
A witness who said that Sletton nearly hit his vehicle after striking Meyers’ truck, told police that he saw Meyers’ turn signal and brake lights before the crash.
Gordon who was Meyers’ grandmother was a front seat passenger and died on the scene, Meyers and her daughter received treatment before being released at a local hospital.
After obtaining a warrant, police searched Sletton’s phone records observing that there were no skid marks or other indications that she had applied her brakes or otherwise attempted to avoid the accident. Those records showed that Sletton had looked at Facebook at the time of the accident and that she had sent text messages while driving.
It is illegal in North Dakota to send or receive any type of electronic message while driving and the law carries a $100 fine — a penalty that Traills County Sheriff Mike Crocker told CNN affiliate KVLY/KXJB is not severe enough.
“We do get behind vehicles and all of a sudden they’re weaving on the road,” Crocker said. “We do initiate a traffic stop and try to find out what’s going on. Texting and driving to me … is becoming a very serious problem.”
A 2011 survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the most prolific violators of laws against texting and driving are drivers between the ages of 18 and 20. The survey also found that at least half of these drivers said that their driving is not affected by their phone usage.
Sletton who lives in Hatton is to appear in court again on October 8. Her attorney, Bruce Quick had no comment.
Larson is out-of-town and was unavailable for comment.
Sletton is out on $5,000 bail.
h/t: WGHP Fox8