The crash that fatally injured 24 year old Megan Elizabeth Carrier happened just after 4 a.m. on February 4th, 2013. She was the passenger in a vehicle operated by an impaired driver that rear ended a semi-truck parked on the shoulder of the I-5 freeway, just outside Castaic in California. Carrier, a resident of Las Vegas, is survived by her infant child. The driver of the vehicle which Carrier was the passenger of was identified as 25 year old James Samuel Buterbaugh, who highway patrol officials stated was arrested for “gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.” The driver of the big rig that was rear ended was asleep in his cabin when the semi truck collision occurred.
A Preventable Death
Many people who know that they shouldn’t drive drunk, yet for some reason, still tempt fate by getting into cars driven by people in no condition to drive. Perhaps this is because they are only thinking of the legal consequences of their actions (better he get arrested for drunk driving than me), or maybe because they just think that they’re lucky enough to avoid unfortunate consequences.
The exact circumstances surrounding Megan Carrier that put her in the car with Buterbaugh are still not clear and, in fact, may never be 100% clear – but it is clear that this story serves as a cautionary tale to those who would get in a car with an impaired driver. Impaired drivers don’t just take a legal risk with themselves; they take a deadly risk with the lives of everyone else that they are on the road with.
Some might reason that letting the person who is least drunk do the driving is prudent because it would be quicker and cost less than calling a taxi. James Samuel Buterbaugh would likely disagree, perhaps now more than ever. His decision to drive drunk, if found guilty, could cost him his freedom, tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and judgments against him, and countless sleepless nights as the totality of his single poor decision takes an emotional and mental toll on him.
More than Impaired Driving
This story doesn’t just illustrate the importance of staying out of vehicles driven by impaired drivers; it also illustrates the caution which any driver should take when he or she drives on the open road. Professional truck drivers and long distance haulers regularly pull over to the shoulders of highways when they need to rest. Therefore, especially when driving at night and in a lane next to a shoulder, drivers should remain aware of the shoulder and of any vehicles parked or stopped on it.
Further, all occupants of vehicles should always wear their seat belts. The statistics and stories from crash survivors have existed long enough for people to realize exactly how effective seatbelt technology really is. Not only can seatbelts save lives, but simply wearing a seatbelt is much more affordable than being stopped and ticketed by a police officer for not wearing one.
About the Author: This post was contributed on behalf of the law firm of Fisher & Talwar. Vibhu Talwar has been representing semi truck accident victims and people with all other types of injuries.