It was a Nissan Versa like this one that crashed. Photo: Lindsey Turner
It was a Nissan Versa like this one that crashed. Photo: Lindsey Turner

Pennsylvania State Police declared that a Noo Joizee woman was high on cannabis when she crashed her car and killed two of her grandchildren shortly before 1 am on September 14 2016 at mile marker 70.6 on Interstate 78 eastbound near Bethlehem.

Lots of charges

Driving while high on cannabis was one of 20 charges filed against 55-year-old Nadine Walton of Newark. We have aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI, driving under the influence of a controlled substance, having alcohol in a car, homicide by vehicle, possession of a small amount of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and traffic violations.

How the accident unfolded

Walton lost control of her car, a Nissan Versa, which crossed both lanes in an attempt at course correction before hitting a guardrail. Five-year-old Ravon Robinson, his two-year-old sister, Brielle, and their mother, 31-year-old Stefany Stephens, were all thrown from the car. The boy died at the scene, the girl died days later and the mother was badly injured. Both children had been in safety seats and wearing seatbelts. The car was then hit by another and then by a minivan, which were travelling in the same direction and driven by males wearing seatbelts who received only minor injuries and don’t face traffic charges. Walton was trapped behind the steering wheel and “severely injured.” The road was closed for almost 11 hours.

Ravon Robinson was described by his grandfather as “my little angel” and “the life of the party.” He added that the boy was “the top student in his class” and destined to “be something special.”

Granny liked her drugs

The family had been returning from a funeral in South Carolina. Driving while high on cannabis was not the extent of Walton’s sinning. There was one empty and one full wine cooler can in the car, while cannabis in the shape of five joints and a bag of marijuana and 49 Oxycodone pills were found on Walton. Oxycodone is a powerful prescription painkiller. A blood test confirmed Walton’s consumption of cannabis. Four others were injured.

Walton’s lawyer, Scott Wilhelm, revealed that she plans to turn herself in. He described the police investigation as “substantially flawed” on the grounds that “There are significant toxicological, forensic and accident reconstruction issues in this case which need to be analysed.” Good luck with that one. Walton did not return journos’ phone calls. More than $11,000 has been raised for the family through GoFundMe.

Cannabis and driving

Being high on cannabis seems to impair driving ability, affecting judgement, motor co-ordination and reaction time. It is the drug most often found in the blood of drivers involved in vehicular crashes. Studies differ, but two sizeable ones conducted in Europe showed that drivers under the influence of cannabis were about twice as likely to cause a fatal crash. Tolerance means that the effects of cannabis on people’s driving vary wildly. It doesn’t help that THC can remains in a person’s system for weeks after use.

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