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Lowell: Tewksbury man killed in Lowell crash was texting
[December 15, 2009]

Lowell: Tewksbury man killed in Lowell crash was texting

LOWELL, Dec 15, 2009 (The Sun - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Going at least 50 mph as he drove inbound on Andover Street this weekend, Stephen Clark had less than a second between the time he looked at his cell phone and the time his car slammed into a tree, police say.

Officers found Clark's Nissan Altima demolished, crushed against a 2-foot thick tree along Andover Street on Sunday about 11:10 a.m.

On the passenger-side floor of the car was his cell phone, with its keyboard exposed, police said yesterday.

Cell-phone records would later show that text messages had been sent and received in the moments leading up to the crash, and just as the accident happened, according to Lt. Timothy Crowley.

Clark, 22, of 145 Greenmeadow Drive in Tewksbury, was pronounced dead at Saints Medical Center in Lowell shortly after he was freed from the car. No one else was hurt.

The revelation reached by accident investigators this week led Lowell police to warn all drivers about texting while driving last night, and led both Crowley and Superintendent Kenneth Lavallee to call for tougher laws on the roads.

Crowley said that in addition to texting, speed was a factor in the crash, as was Clark's failure to wear a seat belt.

He said the crashed Altima's speedometer was stuck just above 50 mph, though that was the speed the car was traveling when it stuck the tree. Crowley said it was probably going faster before leaving the road and driving up onto the shoulder.

"Texting while driving caused the accident to occur," Crowley said. "Speed and not wearing a seat belt made it a fatality.

"That's why we want to get information out." Crowley said that at the speed Clark was going, even the briefest of distractions was all it took.

"At 50 miles per hour, you're traveling 75 feet per second," Crowley said. "So from the time (Clark's) vehicle left the road surface to the time it hit the tree, at that distance, it took less than a second to travel that distance.

"He only had to take his eyes off the road for one second." Crowley said that kind of math is something police stress to young drivers.

He and Lavallee both called for the state Legislature to make texting while driving and talking on a cell phone while driving a primary violation in Massachusetts -- in other words, an offense that police can pull a driver over for.

Crowley said police can, and do, cite people for distracted driving if they are caught texting or talking on the telephone while committing another violation, but police cannot pull a driver over simply for texting.

"It's really time that the Legislature steps up and passes a law making texting and talking on the phone a primary offense in Massachusetts," Crowley said.

Efforts have been made to pass such a law, but so far all have failed.

For more on this article, see Wednesday's Sun or come back to

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