Claim:   Photographs show automobile accidents that occurred as the result of motorists texting while driving.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, October 2013]

The caption under the photo on facebook says “This guy was texting while driving … they found the phone still in his hand.
They found his head in the back seat!! Make sure all the young people you know, heck ALL the people you know, see this.”


Origins:   This sobering image of a collision between a Chevrolet Corvette and a tractor-trailer has been circulating on the Internet for several years, often accompanied by captions claiming that the accident was the result of a distracted motorist who was texting while driving (and ended up being decapitated), and urging viewers to share the message with others:

This guy was texting while driving … they found the phone still in his hand. They found his head in the back seat!! Make sure all the young people you know, heck ALL the people you know, see this

An eye-opener for you sitting o send SMS while you are driving, because that was what this driver did. His mobile was still in his hand, but his head was in the backseat

They found his cell phone still in his hand he was texting his head was in the back seat. PLEASE dont text while driving. Share this if your against Texting & Driving..

Do not play with the phone while driving! Harm to others! When rescue personnel found the deceased, the deceased had been decapitated, his hand still holding the phone. The original accident took place when the deceased was using a mobile phone.

The pictured accident is a real one which took place on Route 287 in New Jersey on 28 July 2005. However, this item appears to be yet another case in which people have repurposed an unrelated accident scene photograph to serve as a warning against texting while driving, as local news coverage of the event in the following day’s Bergen County Record made no mention of the driver having been texting at the time of the crash, being found with a cell phone in his hand, or having been decapitated by the collision:

A Westchester County man died Thursday afternoon in a crash on Route 287.

Joseph Gianelli, 58 of Irvington, N.Y., was pronounced dead at the scene after his Chevrolet Corvette struck the rear of a tractor-trailer at about 1 p.m., near milepost 65, state police said.

The truck, operated by Clouis Oquinn Jr., 52, of Virginia, was parked on a northbound shoulder when the Corvette plowed into it. Oquinn was not injured, officials said.

A similar caption has been circulated in conjunction with a photograph of a pickup truck that likewise crashed into the back of a tractor-trailer:

You see that crumpled mess of gray steel and wheels under that bus and on the back of the big truck? That WAS a pickup truck! The driver of that pickup truck was a 19 year old male, who had received and sent 11 text messages in the 11 minutes prior to this crash. He rear ended the big truck tractor at 55 MPH, causing his pickup to go up onto the back of the big truck tractor, the school bus rearended both of them, running up and over the pickup truck, and a second school bus that you can’t see in the picture, rearended the school bus you see here. In all, the young man driving the pickup WHILE TEXTING, DIED, and one student on one of the busses died. Is TEXTING WHILE DRIVING REALLY THAT IMPORTANT?


In this case the captioning was accurate. The accompanying photograph captures the aftermath of an accident that took place near Gray Summit, Missouri, on 5 August 2010 which killed the pickup driver and a 15-year-old student and left 38 other people injured. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the collision was caused by a “manually, cognitively and visually distracted” teenage driver who had sent and received eleven text messages just prior to the crash:

A federal safety official says a 19-year-old pickup truck driver involved in a deadly highway pileup in Missouri sent or received 11 texts in the 11 minutes immediately before the accident.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said it’s clear the pickup driver was manually, cognitively and visually distracted.

Investigators said the young driver sent six texts and received five texts just before his pickup crashed into the back of a tractor truck, beginning a chain collision. The pickup was rear-ended by a school bus, which in turn was rammed by a second school bus.

The pickup driver and a 15-year-old student on one of the school buses were killed. Thirty-eight other people were injured in the Aug. 5, 2010, accident near Gray Summit, Mo.

Last updated:   4 June 2015

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