A schoolteacher died in a freeway crash Thursday morning after he rear-ended a big-rig on Interstate 8 in Alpine, about 35 miles east of San Diego.
Police believe distracted driving may have played a role in the deadly accident.
• A schoolteacher who may have been eating and drinking (not alcohol) while driving slammed into the back of a fully loaded big-rig on the freeway.
• The teacher died on impact.
• Neither drugs nor alcohol were involved, police said. They suspect that distracted driving may have been a factor.
California Highway Patrol Officer Brian Pennings said a 52-year-old El Cajon man — later identified as Central Union High School social studies teacher Patrick Strobel — was driving a 2004 Honda Accord eastbound on I-8 at the time of the accident.
At the same time, a fully loaded 1998 Freightliner big-rig that was hauling a furniture to Arizona had just reached the top of a grade and was on a flat portion of the road trying to regain speed, Pennings said. The truck was traveling between 40 and 45 mph.
A witness who was driving the same direction on the freeway at about 65 mph said the Honda passed him at a significantly faster speed. The Honda slammed into the big-rig.
“He drove straight into the back of the truck,” Pennings said. Strobel died on impact. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Pennings said drugs or alcohol did not appear to be a factor in the accident, but distracted driving may have been. Investigators found food and a drink in the car.
Distracted Driving: Eating and Drinking is Dangerous
Driver distractions are the leading cause of most vehicle crashes, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV says 80 percent of all motor vehicle crashes involve some form of driver distraction, per studies released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). The distraction typically occurs within three seconds before the crash.
Eating and drinking are the most common forms of distraction. In fact, 65 percent of drivers say they eat while driving, according to a PEMCO Insurance poll on driver distraction. Cars come with cup holders, after all, so most drivers think it is perfectly safe to sip — and munch — behind the wheel.
Nothing could be farther from the truth, the DMV says. Eating involves opening packages, unwrapping and re-wrapping food, reaching, leaning, spilling, wiping, and cleaning yourself or your vehicle. Any one of those activities poses an unsafe distraction, and looking away while doing them is an accident waiting to happen.
Talking on the phone, texting, dealing with pets and children, changing tapes or CDs, and looking away from the road for any reason are also extremely dangerous distractions.
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