A tragic traffic accident in 2009 that left a pregnant Montana woman and her 13-year-old son dead may have been purposely caused by a teenage driver, ABC News reports.
According to new evidence presented in the case, prosecutors in the trial of 18-year-old Justine Winter argued that text messages sent before the fatal accident prove that the teenager was trying to commit suicide after a fight with her boyfriend.
The two-car accident on Route 93 in northwest Montana in March 2009 killed Erin Thompson, 35, and her 13-year-old son, Caden. Thompson was pregnant at the time of the crash.
Facing a nearly 10-year prison sentence if convicted, Winter claims that she is not responsible for their deaths.
Before the crash, Thompson had watched her son perform in a school concert. At the same time, however, Winter, the driver of the other vehicle in the crash, was allegedly having a major argument with her boyfriend over something he read in her journal.
She left her boyfriend’s house, but while driving home allegedly sent a series of text messages to him. According to the news source, during the digital argument, Winter sent text messages stating that “If I won, I would have you, and I wouldn’t crash my car,” and that she was going to crash her car and kill herself because she was a “terrible person.” Allegedly, the emotional text message exchange continued for close to 30 minutes.
As Winter approached a construction zone at a bridge, she made no effort to brake, prosecutors argued. A driver traveling behind Thompson and her son told the court that she saw Winter’s car collide head-on with Thompson’s. Both Thompson and her son died at the scene.
According to Partners for Safe Teen Driving, unsafe or risky teen driving behavior is a serious problem facing the nation. Car crashes are the leading cause of death among 16 to 19 year olds, and nearly 13,000 American teenagers died in 2006 from injuries resulting from car accidents. In addition, fatal and non-fatal car cashes involving teen drivers cost the nation approximately $40 billion each year.
The organization believes that crash rates are so high for teenagers because this age group often lacks the psychological and physiological maturity to safely manage risk behind the wheel, particularly in hazardous driving conditions, and they are at a life stage when they feel invincible. Teens are also less likely to take safety precautions like wearing seat belts.