Back in October 2009 we wrote about the death of Central Bucks High School junior, Alexandra Smolin. She was a victim of a Pennsylvania car accident. The car was driven by then Central Bucks student Jessica Atkins. Atkins was driving at excessive speed on Street Road in Warrington, PA, lost control of the car, and hit a tree. Ms. Smolin, back seat passenger, was fatally injured. The driver has recently been sentenced.
Ms. Atkins, who had admitted to speeding (driving 69 mph in a 40 mph zone) when she lost control of her car, plead guilty to vehicular homicide and involuntary manslaughter late last year. She was sentenced this month in Bucks County Juvenile Court to no less than six months in a locked juvenile facility in Monroe County, PA. The sentencing judge ruled that Atkins’ stay at the juvenile facility is indefinite.
Ms. Atkins must spend her upcoming spring break at the locked facility, after which she will spend the remaining weeks of the school year on house arrest, with mandated participation in juvenile programs on the weekends. Atkins begins her long-term stay at the juvenile facility as soon as she finishes classes and meets all graduation requirements. Ms. Atkins, now a resident of Bensalem, PA and a senior at Bensalem High School, is prohibited from attending her high school graduation ceremony in June. Her sentence also includes 200 hours of community service, which will have her spending some time talking to other teenagers and young adults about the dangers and consequences of reckless driving.
Additionally, Ms. Atkins has been ordered to attend regular therapy sessions, undergo drug and alcohol tests, write Alex Smolin’s parents a letter of apology, and pay a restitution fee of $14,700 to cover the cost of Ms. Smolin’s funeral. And, yes, Ms. Atkins’ driver’s license has been revoked.
The accident investigation concluded that there was cell phone use in the car around the time of the accident, but because the investigating officers were unable to determine the exact moment of impact, Ms. Atkins was not charged with offenses associated with cell phone use or distracted driving.
The Bucks County car accident investigation revealed the presence of a marijuana pipe among Ms. Atkins’ belongings, but blood tests performed on the driver showed no trace of the drug in her system at the time of the Warrington, PA car accident.
We provide this follow-up to our original article and the outcome in this case in an effort to alert both teens and their parents about the dangers of reckless and/or careless driving. In an instant, a foolish decision could result in a fatal accident or serious, life altering injuries in the case of a car accident or other event causing serious personal injury. Not only has one family lost a child, but another individual has to live with the consequences of her poor judgment for the rest of her life, as well as the loss of a dear friend. Most assuredly, Ms. Atkins’ senior year of high school and remaining teenage years are not turning out to be what she might have envisioned.