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North Carolina man gets unique sentence in double road fatality

A North Carolina man who pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle in a case involving a married couple of motorcyclists received an unusual sentence. A district court judge came in from Orange County to hear their case because the brother of the deceased woman was a Burlington police officer.

The judge ordered the Elon driver to take an online course on alert driving and write a report on it as well as read "The Silent Epidemic: Texting and Distracted Driving," write a report on it, and then interview the author and report the substance of their conversation to the judge. This was in addition to completing 500 hours of community service, paying hefty fines and completing safe driving courses.

The judge suspended a 75-day jail sentence and ordered the driver to serve two years of probation during which all of the above conditions must be met. He must surrender his driver's license and will be responsible for restitution of the $29,000 funeral expenses for the couple with an added $1,000 fine and court costs.

The motorcycle accident occurred last October when the driver's pickup ran into the back of of a motorcycle carrying the couple. They had slowed down on State Route 87 to turn right on Carroll Drive when he crashed into them at about 55 miles per hour.

The motorcycle had both its running lights and turn signals on at the time of the crash. Thus it was unclear why the pickup driver failed to see it. Records indicate that a cellphone call was made within 40 seconds of the fatal accident, leading investigators to suspect that the driver was on the phone when he struck the pair. There was no way to determine whether the call was made immediately before or after the wreck, however.

While at-fault drivers can face criminal charges, fines and other types of punishment, survivors of the deceased may elect to pursue civil litigation against the driver and his insurance company. Financial settlements or judgments can be used to ease the financial burdens of families after the death of a loved one.

Source: The Times-News, "Man pleads guilty in deaths of husband and wife motorcyclists" Michael D. Abernethy, Jul. 15, 2014

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