• May 19, 2022

Teen Killed in Crossover Accident on I-29 in Pottawattamie County, IA

Pottawattamie County, IA -- May 14, 2022, a 17-year-old was killed in a collision between an SUV and a tractor-trailer on Interstate 29 in Pottawattamie County.

Authorities say the incident happened around 6:00 p.m. on I-29 near mile marker 70. Preliminary investigation suggests the victim was driving a Subaru Forester north on the interstate when he allegedly drifted over the center line for unknown reasons. The Subaru then collided head-on with an 18-wheeler driven by 39-year-old Robert Taylor. After the impact the Subaru caught fire and the big rig ran off the road into a ditch.

The teen driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Taylor was reportedly unhurt.

No further information is available at this time.

Commentary on Crossover Accident on I-29 in Pottawattamie County

The news suggests the victim may have triggered this wreck by crossing left of center. Some may accept that uncritically, but it's important to remember that preliminary reports aren't always 100% right about a crash. I've even seen a few cases where police at the scene were completely wrong about what happened.

I recently worked on a similar wreck in which a victim supposedly crossed the center line and crashed with an 18-wheeler. We looked more closely on behalf of the victim's family and learned he was only in the opposite lane to escape the truck, which had crossed over first. It turned out the trucker fell asleep and drifted out of his lane, only to wake up when he hit the rumble strips and swerve sharply back on-course--once again in the victim's path.

The victim couldn't evade the truck a second time, but he certainly wasn't to blame for the collision. Because police found both vehicles in the truck's lane when they got there, though, they said the victim crossed over. There were no witnesses but the sleepy trucker, who didn't want to change a narrative where he wasn't to blame. If we hadn't looked again--more carefully than authorities did--the wrong person might have taken the blame forever.

Teen Killed in Crossover Accident on I-29 in Pottawattamie County, IA

That situation was pretty unusual and I'm not saying anything like that happened in Iowa. Even if authorities are entirely sure the victim crossed over first, though, there's still the question of why. Some may reflexively blame texting, speeding, or some other common factors, particularly if they tend to believe a young driver is likely to make such mistakes. However, there are many other reasons someone might lose control. Could the Subaru have blown a tire or had a mechanical failure? What about the driver--did he have a medical issue that took away his control? Things like that may not be as common as distracted or careless driving, but they and other possibilities can't be dismissed without proper investigation.

The takeaway here is that things aren't always as straightforward as they first appear. Unfortunately police don't always look carefully enough to learn that, especially if they've decided on a story for their reports. To be sure the whole truth is found I often suggest working with independent accident reconstruction experts with the needed time and training. At the very least, the victim deserves the benefit of the doubt while the accident is still coming into focus.

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