Police: Dropped cellphone led to truck rear-ending passenger vehicle on Auto Mall Drive

ST. GEORGE — A white Ford F30 rear-ended a black 2011 Kia Optima on Dixie Drive near South Auto Mall Drive on Thursday at around 5:30 p.m. St. George Police Officer Eric Trombley, who was on the scene, said the cause of the collision was distracted driving.

A 2011 Kia was totaled when it was rear-ended by a truck on South Auto Mall Drive. Both drivers and a passenger in the Kia were unharmed. Police blame distracted driving, St. George, Utah, Nov. 18, 2021| Photo by Sarah Torribio, St. George News

Both vehicles were heading west on Dixie Drive when the 19-year-old driver of the Kia slowed down for traffic, Trombley said. However, he added, the driver of the truck told him that he had dropped his cellphone and was reaching down to pick it up just before the collision.

“He was kind of distracted and didn’t see that everyone was slowing,” Trombley said. “When he finally popped his head up is when he ran into the back of the car.”

The driver of the Kia, Levi Hafen, was in the vehicle with his girlfriend at the time. The impact of the crash left the Kia badly crumpled, with the car’s license plate pushed far back into the trunk area and debris strewn by the side of the road.

“With the way newer cars are built,” Trombley said, “they’re built for that type of impact to where they’re trying to keep all passengers safe. The way they make them is to take any kind of impact so they accordion around the passengers. So a lot of times we will see accidents where there are no injuries, even with this type of impact.”

Paramedics arrived to the scene of a rear-end collision. The driver and a passenger in a totaled Kia and the driver of the Ford truck that struck it were unharmed, St. George, Utah, Nov. 18, 2021 | Photo by Sarah Torribio, St. George News

Because of the location of the collision, traffic wasn’t significantly impacted and continued to move smoothly as darkness fell and first responders arrived to the scene.

Hafen’s mother, Andrea Johnson, showed up at the scene along with her husband. They were relieved their son and his girlfriend were unhurt.

“It’s just a piece of iron,” Hafen’s father said; however, the family noted that quite a bit of money was recently invested into that hunk of iron, including a new engine, new tires and an oil change.

Despite this, as tow trucks began preparations to transport the Kia and the Ford, Johnson expressed only gratitude.

“It looks like it’s totaled, but we’re glad that all the parties involved are safe,” she said. “That’s the most important thing. Cars can be fixed and replaced.”

Johnson and her husband have a combined total of 14 kids, and she said all that parenting has helped her remain a little less panicked in situations like this.

Scene of a collision after Ford truck rear-ended a Kia on Dixie Drive. St. George Police Officer Eric Trombley says distracted driving caused the incident, St. George, Utah, Nov. 18, 2021| Photo by Sarah Torribio, St. George News

“We’ve been through this once before with kids,” she said. “We thought that the call would be from our new driver that’s 16. But we’re good.”

What’s not good, Trombley said, is how many people fail to prioritize careful driving.

“People need to just to make sure that when they’re in their cars, their cell phones are not in their hand and they pay attention to the road because it (distracted driving) does cause a lot of accidents,” he said.

Thursday was busy for the St. George Police Department, which responded to five or six collisions in various parts of the city, Trombley said, adding that distracted driving is all-too-often the cause of such incidents.

“You never really know what their thought process is,” he said. “And a lot of times with all these accidents and everything, it’s almost like people don’t care what happens on the road, which is very saddening.”

Paramedics were called to the scene, but neither Hafen nor his passenger, both students at Dixie College, were injured. However, the Kia was totaled and the Ford sustained damage.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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