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Distracted truck driver caused fatal North Carolina highway wreck

Survivors of that late October 2014 day wonder what the trucker was thinking that day. More important, they wonder what was distracting him as he drove his big rig on U.S. 52, about an hour and a half north of Charlotte.

Though the truck driver hasn't said what was distracting him, there is little doubt that he was not paying attention to the road and traffic as his 18-wheeler carrying an 80,000-pound load of sand hurtled at 60 mph toward a line of vehicles stopped for road repairs. The truck slammed into the back of a minivan driven by a mom, killing her 9-year-old son who sat in the back seat. The truck then plowed into another vehicle, killing the woman driver and her husband.

Eight other people were injured in the commercial truck crash.

The mother of the little boy killed that day still has a question: "We want to know what was distracting him that day," she said recently in court.

The trucker was sentenced in a Winston-Salem court to 60 days behind bars: nearly three weeks per dead victim. He also got a suspended sentence, probation and community service.

Many observers believe the sentence is, at most, a slap on the wrist.

A prosecutor pointed out in court that the trucker, a 51-year-old North Carolina man, knew that highway traffic was slow. He had passed the construction site earlier in the day. And when the truck driver came over a hill near the stopped traffic, he had 11.6 seconds in which to react, the prosecutor said.

More than enough time to slow or stop the big rig or to swerve around the line of cars. Instead, he simply kept going, never hitting the brakes.

Nothing can undo the damage done that day. But we do hope other truckers will hear of the tragedy and put away their electronics and other distractions in order to pay attention to the road and traffic.

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