EASTON - Police released more information about an accident that happened around 11:40 a.m. Friday at state Route 322 and St. Michaels Road that ended with a truck that was towing a boat partially submerged in a marsh on the side of the road.
According to police, a Ford F-350 owned by a business that operates out of Shady Side was pulling a trailer loaded with a boat and traveling south on Route 322.
Police said the driver of the company truck, Donald D. Shirkey Jr., 37, of Ridgely, got a phone call on his cell phone, and while he was looking at his cell phone he drove through a red light at Route 322 and St. Michaels Road, hitting a 2004 Toyota Avalon traveling west on St. Michaels Road, driven by Catherine M. Watts, 64, of Easton.
The crash caused Watts' car to spin around nearly 180 degrees and Shirkey's truck veered off of Watts' car, hit the guardrail and went through it into the north branch of the Tred Avon River.
Watts was taken to Memorial Hospital at Easton for minor injuries, treated and released.
It took three tow vehicles to pull the truck and its load out of the marsh and away from the water, and the road was closed down for about three hours until the wreckage was cleared.
Shirkey was charged with driver failure to stop at a red signal, driver using hands to use handheld telephone while motor vehicle is in motion, failure to control speed on highway to avoid a collision and negligent driving vehicle in careless and imprudent manner endangering property, life and person.
According to the Easton Police Department, accidents like this one involving a distracted driver are a new traffic safety epidemic that has emerged on America's roadways.
In 2010, 3,092 people were killed in crashes that involved a distracted driver, police said, and one of the most widespread forms of distracted driving is cell phone use.
According to a Carnegie Mellon University study, driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent, and a report from the National Safety Council showed that more than one out of every four traffic accidents is caused by people talking on cell phones or sending text messages.
"Distracted driving is an epidemic on America's roadways, and we're doing our part to help put an end to it," U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said. "Texting and cell phone use while driving is extremely dangerous, and we know simply getting drivers to turn their phones off when they get behind the wheel will make our roads significantly safer."
EPD said text messaging is most concerning because it combines three types of distraction - visual, manual and cognitive.
A bill recently passed in the Maryland General Assembly makes talking on a cell phone while driving a primary offense.
"Decades of experience with drunk driving and getting people to buckle up has taught us it takes a consistent combination of public education, effective enforcement, a committed judiciary and the collective efforts of local, state and national advocates to put a dent in the problem," LaHood said.