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TMCNet:  Teen may have been texting before fatal crash near Hinckley

[March 28, 2012]

Teen may have been texting before fatal crash near Hinckley

Mar 28, 2012 (Star Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Authorities said Tuesday that they are looking into whether an east-central Minnesota teenager was texting and driving when she crashed her car near Hinckley and was killed on Friday night.

High school junior Haylie Samuelson, 16, of Pine City, was driving with a friend when they hit the lip of a driveway entrance on northbound County Hwy. 61 and rolled over shortly after 9:15 p.m., according to the Pine County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies found Samuelson dead. She had been thrown from the vehicle. Her passenger was hospitalized and is expected to survive.

Sheriff's Chief Deputy Steve Blackwell said "we've heard texting" and other factors might have led to the crash, but he wants to wait for crash reconstruction information from the State Patrol before making that determination. Blackwell said he expects to know more later this week.

"We see the value" of alerting the public if texting played a role in the Samuelson's death, Blackwell added.

"We don't want to discredit anyone, but there are lessons to be learned if it is that way." Blackwell added that given that Samuelson was thrown from the vehicle, it's safe to "base some assumptions" that she was not wearing her seat belt.

Texting while driving is illegal in Minnesota, 34 other states and the District of Columbia, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Results of in-vehicle research released Monday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that teenage girls in the group studied were twice as likely as teen boys to use cellphones and other electronic devices while driving.

The foundation said the study by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center is the first to use in-vehicle video footage to specifically focus on teen distracted driving.

The study's data came from analyzing video clips collected as part of a study of 50 North Carolina families with novice teenage drivers.

More than 7,800 clips from the first six months of unsupervised driving were specifically analyzed to investigate distraction.

The distracted-driving incidents were captured on video even though the drivers knew they were being videotaped.

Paul Walsh -- 612-673-4482 ___ (c)2012 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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