6pm, 25 December, 2019 — Christmas day. Geneva, Alabama.
Three high school cheerleaders were killed and another girl was hospitalized with critical injuries following a Christmas night wreck in Geneva, south Alabama. A fifth girl in the vehicle escaped without serious injury.
Of concern to Road Safety USA were some apparently inappropriate comments by law enforcement officers.
All four victims were students at Geneva High School. The three who died were Cassidy Dunn, Emilee Fain, and Addyson Martin — all 16 years old, and long-time friends.
Geneva is a town of about 4,400 people and is located near the Florida line, more than 100 miles south of Montgomery.
Lt. Michael McDuffie, Geneva Police, said that the vehicle used was a Lincoln MKZ which ran off the road after cresting a hill on Westville Avenue, and it then hit an oak tree.
He added that the car was being driven by Addyson Martin and that the other two girls who did not survive were sharing the front passenger seat. None of the three deceased were wearing seatbelts.
Geneva police also said that ‘excessive speed’ was a contributing factor in the triple-fatality. The posted speed limit at the crash site is 25mph.
It was not thought that alcohol or drugs were involved.
The police allegedly did, however, make two comments which cannot be substantiated and which — if accurate — are very regrettable in terms of exacerbating the often-wild public speculation which inevitably takes place in any area or community where there has been a serious road crash.
The first of these comments inferred that the crash might have taken place because a deer might have run in front of the car. But in proper crash investigations nothing should be said until all achievable facts have been ascertained. What in this case ‘might have been’ might also not have been!
The second assertion is far more serious because it was stated — according to AL.com — that “distracted driving [was] not involved.” This, however, flies in the face of multi-national research showing that for any teen driver to carry just one teen passenger without suitable adult supervision creates a level of distraction for the driver that seriously increases the risk of a fatal crash, and that this risk increases exponentially with the number of teen passengers.
The fact that there were two passengers in the front seat is very likely to have exacerbated this.
Thus, it seems almost inevitable that distracted driving was indeed a factor.
Another aspect which needs mention, so that parents who read this are better able to warn their own kids on how to reduce risk in the future, relates to the fact that the two passengers who were killed, Cassidy Dunn and Emilee Fain, were sharing the front passenger seat.
It was mentioned in the media that none of the deceased were wearing a seatbelt, but it was not emphasised that this front-seat sharing effectively made that scenario impossible. Two people cannot fit in one seatbelt, and even if they had somehow managed that feat, it would be stunningly unsafe — including increased danger from the airbag.
The tragedy is that there were only two girls in the back seat, both of whom survived…. and yet there are three seatbelts in the back seat. All five of the girls could have been wearing one!
The main lessons to come from this terrible tragedy, in terms of preventing future repeats, is to teach children from birth never to travel in a car without wearing a seatbelt — by always setting the example yourself, even when going down your own drive before or after checking the mailbox! And secondly, as tragic as it now is, the aspect of not letting teens drive other teens without suitable adult supervision is a proven safety factor.
God only knows the parents of these lovely girls have paid an immeasurably hideous price, however this article has not been written with them in mind, but the future welfare of readers’ own children.
In due course, if any family members or friends of any of the victims of this terrible crash wish to provide further information or photographs, we would consider it a privilege to create individual memorial pages. Please contact us at Road Safety USA.