Brookline, NH Auto Accident Fatality: Horrible Christmas Tragedy Points to Distracted Driving As Cause

My previous post on Christmas Day was about a horrific story of an auto accident, heartbreaking in its details. Tuesday morning, Christmas Eve, a serious car accident occurred at the intersection of Route 13 and Route 130 in Brookline, New Hampshire. Car accidents happen all the time, right? So what’s the big deal about this?

Because the woman who was killed, Katie Hamilton, was a young mother with a husband and three young kids, aged 2 to 9. Because she had just dropped her kids off at her mother’s house , before she headed to her job as a plumber working for her father, Steve Whitcomb, who owns Whitcomb Plumbing & Heating in the Brookline NH area. Because those three kids will forever more be without their mother. Because her husband Liam Hamilton will never see his wife alive again.

Oh, there’s one other “because” here: Because her father Steve Whitcomb, aside from being a plumber, is a firefighter in Brookline NH, and he answered the 911 call for the accident. And because the victim he helped extricate from the wreck with the Jaws of Life, was not the male victim that initial police reports indicated. Because the body he pulled out of the wreck was his own daughter. On Christmas Eve.

One would think that things could not get much worse than that. Christmas Eve. Holiday gatherings planned. A young family embraced in the safety of a rural New Hampshire community – home for the holidays. In picturesque New England; an idyllic, Norman Rockwell-like setting. But does get even worse, and why? Because all indications at present point not to speeding, or alcohol, or drugs as being the cause of the accident, which resulted when Ms. Hamilton was rear-ended by a Toyota Tundra, as she lawfully waited at the intersection of Routes 13 and 130. The rear-end collision propelled Ms. Hamilton’s SUV into the middle of the intersection, where it was broad-sided by a Ford F-250 pickup truck, which flipped her SUV over and pinned her underneath.

Driving drunk, speeding, and drugged driving are all terrible behaviors, that anyone would condemn. No, at this stage of the investigation it seems that the accident was caused by “driver inattentiveness” – in the event you didn’t know, that’s preliminary law enforcement code for distracted driving. Translation: Smart phone use while driving, almost certainly. Why does that make things even worse here? Because almost no one openly condemns this practice – because almost everyone’s doing it. Come on – admit it. You see everyone around you doing it, and you may well do it yourself. As a Boston, Mass. distracted driving lawyer, I see the tragic results of this all the time. American culture has become so collectively self-absorbed in its smart phones, that it’s not only sad – it’s deadly. And the worst part is, nowhere near enough people “get” it.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many car accidents that were entirely preventable, yet cause lifelong injuries and death – Massachusetts pedestrian accidents, car-bike accidents, rollover accidents, teenage driver accidents, cell phone accidents, truck-car accidents, and more. When will people learn to stop taking driving so casually, and start taking it more seriously? As a Boston injury attorney who has been practicing over 25 years, I know that the honest answer is, “probably never.”

Regardless, I’ll say it one more time: No matter how long you’ve been a driver, no matter how old you are, LEARN to be a LOT MORE CAREFUL when driving your car. Pay attention. Turn the Smart phone OFF. And even if you for some reason don’t care about someone else, drive like your own life depended on it.

Because it does.

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