Parents of 19-year-old Heather Lerch grew worried one night when they had not heard from their daughter who was two hours late coming home. After calling her cell phone and going straight to voicemail, Heather’s parents decided to go out looking for their daughter. Not far from home, they saw emergency vehicle lights and noticed Heather’s car. They parked their own car and ran to the accident scene only to be stopped by a state trooper. After persistent questioning, the parents learned Heather was dead.
Her parents were informed Heather has received text messages at 10:27 and 10:30 pm, the later shortly before she steered her vehicle into a guardrail. Even though Heather was wearing a seatbelt, the impact of the crash crushed her body, and she died instantly. The cause of the accident was ruled to be texting while driving.
When Heather first got her license, her parents had their daughter sign a contract to always wear a seatbelt and never drink and drive. It never dawned on them that using a cell phone while driving would be just as dangerous as driving unbuckled or while intoxicated.
Heather’s tragic story is used nationwide as a reminder and warning that driving distracted is very dangerous to all drivers’ safety on the road. According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers who use handheld devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves than people who do not talk or text on cell phones while driving. As an injury lawyer who has represented numerous car accident victims, I condemn the use of a cell phone while driving. The benefits certainly do not outweigh the risks.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.