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Automobile Collisions / Workers' Compensation

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Police say texting contributed to fatal Wisconsin crash

A criminal court will decide the fate of a Stevens Point driver accused of speeding and reading text messages before a fatal car accident last winter. The accused man, imprisoned on an unrelated charge of burglary, could have as many as 60 years added to his sentence if he is convicted of vehicular homicide.

Wood County sheriff's deputies say the 22-year-old man drove southbound in a sport utility vehicle on Highway Z and ran through a red light at the Highway 73 intersection. Court documents say the driver admitted he was exceeding the speed limit by about 20 mph and simultaneously reading a text message when the car accident occurred.

The SUV apparently struck a second car on Highway 73 driven by a 45-year-old Pittsville woman, who relayed to authorities that she noticed the oncoming vehicle but could not stop in time before the accident. The force of the crash caused the SUV to spin into a third vehicle driven by a 32-year-old man. The Saratoga injury victim was thrown from the struck vehicle. Investigators and emergency responders say the man had been wearing a seat belt and died from injuries at the scene.

The Stevens Point suspect will go before a judge in early December to face a charge of first-degree reckless homicide. The defendant was found guilty in March of violating probation related to a separate burglary conviction. Police say the accused driver was unlicensed and driving without a probation officer's approval when the fatal accident happened last December.

The man is at the Stanley Correctional Facility for a three-year term stemming from the probation offense.

Source: wisconsinrapids.com, "Driver accused of texting faces homicide charges in crash," Karen Madden, Oct. 27, 2011

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