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Driver charged in fatal I-485 wreck blamed visors for blocking view of stopped cars

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In 2015, 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. If you text and drive, your next message may be your last.

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An SUV hit a 73-year-old woman as she crossed West Morehead Street several feet behind her husband during Sunday’s Carolina Panthers game at Bank of America Stadium, police said. The woman died at Atrium Heath. Getty Images iStockphoto


A driver charged in one of two fatal wrecks on the Interstate 485 Outer Loop last week told troopers that his visors blocked his view of stopped cars during the afternoon commute, State Highway Patrol Trooper Ray Pierce told The Charlotte Observer on Tuesday.

Cars had backed up onto the interstate from the W.T. Harris Boulevard exit in north Charlotte on Wednesday when the Ford Explorer driver smacked the back of a Toyota Camry, according to Pierce. Backups are typical there during commuting hours, he said.

The Camry’s driver, 63-year-old Laura Gale Overcash of Huntersville, had slowed to about 15 mph for the stopped cars ahead when the collision spun her car across I-485’s open lanes, where a Honda Civic driver hit her, the trooper said. Overcash was pronounced dead at the scene.

Troopers charged 46-year-old Timothy Joel Spears of Charlotte, the Ford Explorer driver, with misdemeanor death by vehicle.

Spears told troopers that having his visors down had blocked his longer-range view of the backup, Pierce said. The wreck happened at about 5:45 p.m., according to the trooper.

At about 7:15 p.m. the next night, troopers responded to a fatal wreck on the I-485 Outer Loop at the Independence Boulevard exit in Matthews.

Patricia Finklea Rakes, 61, of Matthews, “was almost home” when she hit the right-rear corner of the bed of a stopped tow truck that was partly in the highway with its amber flashers on, Pierce said. Like Wednesday, it also was pouring rain that night, he said.

The wrecker was in the median, where it had just picked up a van that slid off the rain-slickened highway, Pierce said.

The tow truck driver faces no charges, according to Pierce. North Carolina’s “move over” law mandates that drivers move over a lane for emergency vehicles that have their flashers on, including tow trucks, or at least slow down, Pierce said.

Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.
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