ANNAPOLIS — Distracted driving on the part of a truck driver caused a July crash on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge that sent a car falling 27 feet into the water, according to a Maryland Transportation Authority Police investigation released Thursday.
Police have charged 29-year-old truck driver Gabor Lovasz of Canada with negligent driving and other counts for fines totaling $670.
The agency’s report found Lovasz, the driver of a tractor-trailer, was looking at his driver’s side rearview mirror due to flashing lights behind him on July 19. The truck driver was going nearly 50 mph and didn’t see traffic stopped ahead. Police said he tried to swerve to the left but struck two vehicles.
The impact pushed a Chrysler Sebring sedan up onto the bridge’s barrier wall. A second impact then pushed the car over the edge and into the water. The 23-year-old driver of the car, Morgan Lake of Sunderland, was able to free herself and swim to safety. She suffered minor injuries.
Investigators said Lovasz was on his first trip in the U.S. without the company of a more experienced driver. The National Transportation Safety Board has said the truck was operated by Bulk Carriers PEI Limited of Prince Edward Island, Canada. The driver had emigrated from Hungary and had worked with the company since April, officials said.
“This crash demonstrates how critical it is that motorists devote their full attention to driving when operating motor vehicles,” said transportation authority Police Chief Col. Michael Kundrat. “A primary reason for crashes on the Bay Bridge is tailgating.”
The report also studied a crash from April 13, 2013, that occurred in the same location of the eastbound bridge span. That crash involved a car coming to rest on the barrier wall. It was also a result of distracted driving, police said.
“With two similar incidents over the last few months, we are taking a closer look at this area of the bridge to evaluate what can be done to enhance safety,” Kundrat said.
Police are considering flashing signs to warn of congestion, requiring use of headlights and adding additional rumble strips.
The April and July crashes are the only known ones where passenger vehicles rode up and rested on the barrier wall or fell into the water in the bridge’s 60-year history, police said. In a 2008 crash, a tractor-trailer crashed through a concrete barrier and plunged into the bay, killing the driver.