On Wednesday, October 12th at 12:15 AM, Polk County Sheriff officers responded to a call on Deen Still Rd. What they found left them frustrated and brokenhearted, as one 22-month old toddler was pronounced dead at the scene and a 5-year old child was rushed in for emergency medical care for a broken neck. The driver, Guadalupe Najera Santana, is a native of Mexico, and was residing in Polk City on an expired work visa. She was operating the vehicle under the influence of alcohol, with an approximate breath-alcohol content of 0.141 g. The legal limit is 0.08. Sadly, the deceased toddler was not restrained in a safety seat, and was thrown from the vehicle in the crash. It is still not determined if the 5-year old or driver were wearing seatbelts or were restrained in any way.
This accident and ongoing investigation break our hearts. Polk City is our neighboring community, and in Polk County, that is the same as having it happen right here in Winter Haven. When local children are injured or killed, it impacts all of us. Sadly, this accident could have been prevented, and these precious children spared, had only a few things been done differently that evening. Remember:
- NEVER drive after consuming drugs and/or alcohol. No errand or trip is worth risking your life, or the lives of others, by getting behind the wheel when you are impaired. If you’ve had more than a single drink, put down the keys and wait it out, OR call for a designated driver. an Uber, Lyft, friend, or family member can come pick you (and your kids) up, and make sure you reach your destination safely.
- Always put children in age-appropriate safety seats. Both the toddler and the 5-year old in this case should have been in safety seats. These seats are designed to protect little ones in the impact of a crash, keeping their heads stabilized, and their fragile bodies protected. What’s more, these seats usually prevent children from being ejected, which is a leading cause of death in these types of accidents. They can save the lives of children involved in even the most serious crashes, and can be found at almost any major retailer. Need help finding an affordable seat? Don’t know how to install a child safety seat in your vehicle? Call your local Fire Department, Sheriff’s Office, or us. We are happy to guide you and help you find the answers you need to make sure your children are safe when you hit the road.
- Be mindful of the actions of family and friends. While you can’t control the actions of another, you do have a responsibility to speak up when you notice someone getting ready to get behind the wheel in a state of impairment. If you are at a party or gathering, hanging out with family at home, or even in a local restaurant, be mindful of those around you. If you notice an individual getting their keys and you know they’ve had more than one drink, stand up and be willing to speak out. If it’s in public, consider speaking to a restaurant manager, bartender, or server and see if they have a policy for contacting driving services in these circumstances. If they don’t, perhaps you can offer to call a rideshare service. You never know when your willingness to take action could save the life of someone you know and love.
The team at Brooks Law Group sends our deepest condolences to the family of these little ones. Our thoughts are with them as they grieve the loss of one child, and support the other through a long and grueling recovery process. Have you or someone you love been injured in an accident involving drugs or alcohol. We are ready to take on your fight and help you get the compensation you need to recover and the justice you deserve. We have years of experience representing victims throughout Central Florida, and our Winter Haven office is open to you to discuss your case. Contact us for a FREE, no-obligation review and consultation, and find out how we can help you through this difficult time. When accidents happen, look to Brooks.