By Joe Beck
Police say an accident that snarled traffic on the South Fork Bridge over the Shenandoah River in Front Royal Monday was caused by a driver distracted by his cellphone.
The accident involved three vehicles and sent two passengers in one vehicle to Warren Memorial Hospital with minor injuries.
In a news release, Chief Norman Shiflett said a 1986 Ford truck driven by Douglas Neil Harpole, 53, of Amissville, was traveling in the left southbound lane at about 4:25 p.m. when it crossed the double yellow line and sideswiped an oncoming northbound vehicle driven by Nancy Bowen of Vermont.
Harpole's truck then hit a second northbound vehicle driven by Daniel Lynn Cook, Shiflett said.
Cook and his daughter, Dakota Cook, both of Front Royal, were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, Shiflett said. Patrol officers closed both northbound lanes while investigating the crash for just under an hour. Shiflett described all three vehicles as extensively damaged.
Police issued a citation to Harpole for reckless driving. He is scheduled to appear in Warren County General District Court on Nov. 26.
Detective Crystal Cline, a department spokeswoman, said Harpole was charged with reckless driving because a new state law making texting while driving a primary offense did not apply to the circumstances of the accident.
"In this case, he was trying to dial a telephone number, and the new law with communications devices doesn't cover that," Cline said of Harpole.
She called the accident one of the more serious in Front Royal in which a hand-held communications device was confirmed as the cause.
"I'm sure there's been accidents where it's been hard to prove whether a cellphone was being used, but he admitted to being on his cellphone trying to dial someone," Cline said of Harpole. "It could have been a lot more serious than it was because he was drifting into traffic."
Anyone with further information about the accident is asked to contact officer Brad Pennington at 635-2111 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or email@example.com