A Gloucester County man with two previous drunken driving convictions was "substantially" over the legal blood-alcohol limit when his SUV struck a South Harrison girl who had just stepped off a school bus, authorities said.
Michael Taggart, 53, of Pitman, lost control of his Nissan Murano around 3 p.m. Monday on Commissioners Pike near Lincoln Road. The vehicle was headed north when it ran off the pavement and slammed into a signpost, said Bernie Weisenfeld, spokesman for the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office.
The SUV then careered into the southbound lanes, where a 17-year-old student from Kingsway Regional High School was walking along the road on her way home, Weisenfeld said.
The impact sent the girl flying. She landed in a thorn patch, with a concussion and broken pelvis. She was airlifted to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, Weisenfeld said.
Police found the disabled SUV by the side of the road and gave Taggart a breath test.
"It indicated his blood-alcohol level was substantially in excess of the 0.08 legal limit," Weisenfeld said.
Police charged Taggart with drunken driving, aggravated assault, and assault by auto.
According to state Motor Vehicle Commission records, Taggart was found guilty of driving under the influence in 1990 and 1983. He was held last night at the Gloucester County Jail in Woodbury with bail set at $50,000, Weisenfeld said.