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HUDSON – Distracted driving may have been a significant cause of the July 30 crash that claimed the lives of three New Richmond teenagers according to a report released last week by the Wisconsin State Patrol.
The agency has completed most aspects of the crash investigation and has determined, from physical evidence and witness and survivor accounts that distracted driving was a significant contributing factor in the cause of the crash. According to witnesses, the teens, who were returning to New Richmond from Woodbury, Minnesota, were trying to get the attention of another driver who had passed them. In an attempt to find paper, the rear seat passenger Jordan Johnson unfastened his seatbelt while at the same time the driver searched in the center console. These distracted actions resulted in the Durango striking the rear of the stopped semitrailer at highway speed.
In the July 30 accidnet, the Durango driven by 17 year old Zachary D. Zajec, from New Richmond, Wis. rear-ended a semi tractor trailer unit that was stopped in heavy traffic on eastbound I-94 near Hudson. Zajec died on Aug. 6 from the injuries he received in the crash. His passengers, also from New Richmond, 17-year-old Joshua J. Goodrich and 16-year-old Jordan Johnson, were killed at the scene. The fourth passenger, 17-year-old Thomas Wanless received minor injuries. Other than Johnson, all the other occupants were wearing safety belts. The operator of the semi was not injured.
According the State Patrol Commander Jeffrey Frenette, the crash was a tragic chain of events that resulted in the untimely deaths of three young teenagers. Driving a motor vehicle is a responsibility. When a driver gets behind the wheel they must be engaged in the safe operation of that vehicle 100% of the time. Frenette added that distracted driving such as reaching for something, using a cell phone, turning the dial of a radio, eating, talking or anything that robs your attention can be a cause a crash that can forever change your life or those around you.
To prevent additional crashes such as this one, the State Patrol reminds all motorists to keep a safe following distance in heavy or light traffic to allow you the ability to stop in time and
avoid a crash, wear seatbelts at all times, be aware of changing conditions in and around construction zone, and to watch your speed in construction zones. The speed limit is reduced for the safety of motorists and the people working at the site..