Big Trucks + Narrow Roads = Accident Waiting to Happen?
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
The parents of a teen killed in a head- on crash have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the trucking company and the driver. Their lawyer says the truck shouldn't have been allowed on the road.
Three days after her 19th birthday, Toni Ann Johnson was driving back home with her boyfriend after breakfast at a Marion County restaurant. The semi crossed over the center line, crashing into Johnson and killing her. Her parents say it's time to get the big rigs off the narrow roads.
Another truck speeds by on the narrow stretch of road where Toni Ann Johnson was killed August 1st. Her father Scott Johnson still hasn't been to the crash site.
"She was taken away from you like that, so it's difficult," says Johnson. "All you have is pictures, you don't have her here."
The accident happened along County Road 318. But this could be any rural road in North Central Florida, where the country roads are narrow and two lanes and the traffic speeds by all the time.
"We feel like it's very hazardous to have trucks with double trailers on narrow county roads," says Heath Brockwell, the attorney for Johnson's family. "There's literally less than a foot on either side of that truck if he's in the middle of his lane to maneuver."
Truck driver Abel Batista was given a ticket for careless driving because he lost control of his big rig. But according to federal guidelines, there's nothing illegal about where he was driving.
"I don't think this is anything new," says Lt. Mike Burroughs. "This isn't anything we need to restrict the driver taking."
Since 2001, there have been no other head on crashes involving semis where the truck was at fault in Marion County. Burroughs says though it's hard to prove, it appears Batista may have been distracted--a fact that doesn't make it any easier for grieving parents.
"She was a healthy 19- year old with her boyfriend and then she was gone, killed," says Toni Ann's mother Laurie Merritt.
A spokeswoman with the trucking company, Saia Motor Freight Line expressed her sympathy to Johnson's family but said the company could not comment on the lawsuit... including if the driver is still employed by Saia.
Attorney Brockwell says a hearing to set the trial date is scheduled for next month and the trial date should be mid- to late next year. Toni Ann's parents are seeking unspecified monetary damages.
No one knowsÂ who made the original 911 call.Â If you or someone you know phoned in the accident, you are asked to call Attorney Heath Brockwell at (904) 306-9220.
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