Vanessa Suarez was fatally injured about 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the eastbound Moreno Valley (60) Freeway, just west of Jack Rabbit Trail, in a sparsely populated area with hilly terrain known as the Badlands, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Officer Darren Meyer said Suarez was at the wheel of her 2015 Jeep Patriot, driving with her friend, 20-year-old Brandy Ugarte of Torrance, en route to the Coachella Fest to celebrate Suarez’s 21st birthday.
“Against the passenger’s advice, the driver was not wearing her seatbelt,” Meyer said. “While traveling eastbound, (Suarez) began manipulating her cellular phone. While distracted, she lost control of the Jeep.”
He said the SUV hit the center median, and the vehicle veered back into lanes and overturned.
According to Meyer, Suarez was ejected onto the freeway, while Ugarte remained strapped in to her seat.
No other vehicles were involved.
Riverside County Fire Department paramedics arrived within a few minutes, and Suarez was taken to Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley, where she died less than an hour later.
Ugarte escaped with minor injuries, Meyer said.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and law enforcement agencies throughout the region are emphasizing the perils of texting while driving and engaging in other behaviors that could cause injury accidents.
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