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'It was a total miracle': Family recalls 2015 crash caused by distracted driver

By Aley Davis, KSL TV | Posted - Mar. 29, 2019 at 5:13 p.m.


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PARK CITY — Spring break often means warmer weather and more drivers on the road, which can be a deadly combination for Utah drivers. Historically, March 28 has proven just that.

There has been a fatality every day on March 28 for the last six consecutive years, resulting in ten total fatalities, according to Utah Department of Transportation. Sadly, there have been three fatalities on Utah roads in the last week.

Utah Department of Transportation is urging drivers to be careful. One Utah family learned first-hand from an experience they shared together several years ago.

The Smith family of Kaysville loves to play games. It’s something they planned to do together over Thanksgiving break in 2015.

On Nov. 22, 2015, the entire family was on their way home from church, heading to their condo for a staycation. Tai Smith said her kids wanted to watch a movie in the car, but she declined. Tai Smith said it would have obstructed her view of the rear window.

Tai Smith stopped at a red light at the cross of Highway 224 and Payday Dr. in Park City.

The kids were laughing and having fun as they remembered a funny joke, but their mother was focused on the road.

"I looked up in my rearview mirror and I saw a car just flying," Tai Smith said.

A pickup truck was headed toward her vehicle.

"I just looked over to my husband and I said, ‘He's not stopping,’" Tai Smith recounted. One of her daughters remembers hearing her mom yell frantically.

Tai Smith said when the first responders arrived, they expected to pull dead bodies out of the back of the car. Fortunately, everyone survived. (Photo: Tai Smith)
Tai Smith said when the first responders arrived, they expected to pull dead bodies out of the back of the car. Fortunately, everyone survived. (Photo: Tai Smith)

Immediately, Tai Smith acted defensively. “I just floored my gas. Luckily, I had been paying attention to the intersection so I knew there was nobody coming through the intersection," she said.

However, it was too late. The pickup truck behind her slammed into the back of the family’s car.

Kailie Smith, 16, was sitting in the back seat with her sister, McKenzie Smith. When she realized what was happening, Kailie Smith said everything slowed down for a second and she felt numb.

"I just remember my whole body like whipping forward. It was like a huge whiplash,” she described.

“The glass sounded like an explosion,” Tai Smith remembered. She said when the first responders got there, “they thought that they would be pulling dead people out of the back of there is anybody in the back."

Fortunately, everyone survived. Two of her girls suffered lower back injuries and couldn’t resume the rest of their dance season as a result.

"We all walked away. It was a total miracle," Tai Smith said.

The Smith family planned on playing games during their staycation over Thanksgiving break in Park City. (Photo: KSL TV)
The Smith family planned on playing games during their staycation over Thanksgiving break in Park City. (Photo: KSL TV)

UHP Sgt. Nick Street said the police report noted the driver of the pickup truck had been distracted. Street said he was adjusting his radio or CD player and not paying attention to the upcoming stoplight.

UDOT's John Gleason said distraction can happen in a matter of seconds.

"It only takes a moment for a crash to occur and if you think about it, it only takes a moment for you to look down at your cell phone to see who is calling in or to read a text message," Gleason said.

Tai Smith said she is grateful she had been paying attention. "I could have easily checked my cell phone or been playing with my music,” she said.

Today, the family said they are so grateful to have each other.

"Life would have been very different," Tai Smith said.

UDOT spokeswoman Kristen Hoschouer said the crashes which took place on March 28 in years past have included a wide variety of causes including aggressive, distracted, drowsy driving, and speeding. These crashes have involved older drivers, teenage drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists.

Gleason reminds drivers to slow down and to focus all their attention on driving, especially as they hit the road for spring break.

Photos

Aley Davis

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