Woman causes accident, faces misdemeanor driving charges

Written for The Argus Observer. Published on May 21, 2015. This is a follow up to a story published in The Argus Observer on January 8, 2015. 

A young Ontario woman appeared in court on Tuesday to be informed of two charges for a January car crash near Cairo Elementary School that sent an 18-year-old woman to a Boise hospital with life threatening injuries.

Alicia Ramos Zuniga, 22, from Ontario is facing a reckless driving charge and a careless driving charge. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor, according to Malheur County deputy district attorney Erin Landis, and carries with it a maximum fine of $6,250 and up to a year in jail.

Careless driving is a class A violation, which is a crime according to Landis. That has a maximum fine of $2,000. Landis said there is also a potential for the court to order Zuniga to pay restitution for the hospital bills that resulted from the accident.

Zuniga is expected to appear in court again on July 1 and she has a pre-trial conference scheduled with the district attorney office on June 22.

Zuniga was driving westbound in a 2005 Honda Accord near milepost 257 in heavy fog on the morning of January 7, when she attempted to pass a 2007 Dodge R3500 pickup driven by Joe Keppner, 45, from Shoshone, Idaho.

She pulled into the oncoming lane and collided with MaKaylee Reed, 18, of Vale, who was driving a 1989 Nissan Sentra four-door wagon. Both women were transported to the hospital. Zuniga was quickly released, but Reed suffered more extensive injuries.

“MaKaylee’s injuries are going to affect her for the rest of her life,” said Reed’s mother, Chrissy Reed. “We aren’t sure why the charges [Zuniga is facing] aren’t felony charges.”

According to Reed, MaKaylee broke both of the femur bones in her legs in the accident.

“Her right leg is broken from femur to the ankle,” Reed explained.

MaKaylee also broke her left arm in two places, her pelvis in three places, her back, and her neck.

“She had many, many broken bones,” Reed said. “She also had brain trauma and she’s had some internal injuries.”

Currently MaKaylee is walking with a walker, but Reed said it is a struggle.

“She has a very long road of recovery ahead of her,” Reed explained. “She has injuries that will affect her for the rest of her life.”

After the accident, the Vale Christian Church, where the family attends, held a prayer and praise service in MaKaylee’s honor and raised just over $1,000 as a love offering to help with hospital bills and recovery.

Reed declined to comment on the extent of the hospital and recovery costs, but said MaKaylee has a positive attitude about the situation.

“She’s making plans to start school in the fall,” Reed said. “We will see if that will happen, but she has an amazing positive attitude. She has a positive outlook and she has a strong faith in the God that saved her from that wreck.”

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