DJ Becker/The Madera Tribune
A rancher stares at the unusual sight of a car with a trapped driver, squarely wedged into the back of his stock trailer Wednesday afternoon on Highway 41 just north of Avenue 12. CHP officers say the driver of the Volvo may have been distracted because he said he looked away for only a moment and then could not stop or avoid the stopped and turning trailer in directly front of him. The rancher said he had just dropped off a cow and it was very fortunate the trailer was empty.
The bizarre collision of a car that ended up inside the back of an empty stock trailer Wednesday afternoon on Highway 41 just north of Avenue 12 brought traffic to a crawl as motorists did double takes at the unusual scene. Ranchers pulling the trailer said they had just dropped off a cow about 2 p.m. and were back on the highway when they felt an impact and were a little surprised when they got out to see the car with the trapped driver so far inside their trailer.
The incident also helped illustrate the dangers of distracted driving, according to officers from the California Highway Patrol, who are all working extra hours in the month April in an annual Maximum Enforcement Effort to educate and ticket drivers holding cell phones — either talking or texting while driving.
Officer Chris Lancaster said drivers holding phones or texting while driving was an all too common occurrence in Madera and he sees drivers of all ages frequently committing the violation. Lancaster wrote three $165 cell phone citations, in addition to responding to two rear-end collisions, both potentially related to distracted driving, in the space of two hours on Wednesday afternoon.
Any hand use of a cell phone can result in the distracted driving citation even if drivers are using it for GPS, or taking photos or videos, he said, another all too common occurrence. Applying makeup, reading, eating, and or having animals in your lap while driving can also result in a similar ticket for unsafe driving when witnessed by an officer.
“Everyone seems to be on their phones these days, but for safety’s sake they shouldn’t be, if they are behind the wheel. There are lots of other options besides handling your phone these days ... hands free (phone use) — blue tooth, car audio speaker systems.” Lancaster said. “But it’s all still distracting when you are behind the wheel and it’s safer to pull over (to have a conversation or even use voice text),” he said.
Some drivers also think they can avoid detection if they read texts or text from their laps or at intersections, but officers are aware of and trained to look for that behavior and often ticket that violation as well.
The older male driver of the 1960s Volvo was trapped inside the trailer unable to open his car doors for about 20 minutes until firefighters were able assess his situation, break out the car’s windshield and safely pull the man out. He sustained minor injuries from the crash and was taken to a local hospital for evaluation. The man told officers he briefly looked away and when he looked up the stock trailer was stopped straight ahead of him, and waiting to turn. All four of the Volvo’s wheels were off the ground, as if the car had been intentionally loaded into the trailer, which it had been not.
The car sustained little damage other than being squarely wedged inside the trailer, other than plowing through the closed sheet metal trailer doors. Several minutes of sustained pulling by a tow truck was required to dislodge the car from inside the back of the trailer and back onto the shoulder of the roadway.
CHP officers, who frequently respond to major injury or fatal collisions agree distracted driving is far too common and right up there in seriousness with driving under the influence, and say driving a vehicle safely is something that deserves all your attention.