Police say that Sharai Bauer, age 18, was speeding when she struck and killed two people and injured a child in an accident on Wednesday morning, February 9, 2011 in southwest Charlotte, North Carolina.

Ji Sheng Lu, 66, died at the scene. His daughter, 37-year-old Jing Lu, passed away several hours later after being air-lifted to Carolinas Medical Center, news reports said. Jing Lu's 1-year-old son was transported by ambulance to CMC with serious injuries. He has been released from CMC.

Immediately after the accident, Bauer, of Clemmons, was arrested at the scene and charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle. Bauer was not hurt in the crash. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said Bauer was driving at least 48 mph in a 25-mph zone.

When Jing Lu died later that evening, Bauer was charged with another misdemeanor death-by-vehicle charge. She was released from the Mecklenburg County Jail after posting $5,000 bond.

The crash occurred at 11:35 a.m. along the 13600 block of Corsica Forest Drive, which is located in front of The Enclave at Rivergate Apartment Homes and near the Huntington Forest neighborhood in the Steele Creek area.

Police said the child was being pushed in a stroller by either his grandfather or mother when they were hit.

Bauer’s car struck the family from behind as they were walking southbound in the roadway.

Bauer’s attorney said that she was driving her 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix when her cell phone slipped off the console. As she reached down to get it, her lawyer says, she felt the crash.

As we have said before, the electronic gadgetry of our times makes distracted driving  an ever-increasing hazard on our roads, as well as a political hot topic. Texting, talking on cell phones, operating a GPS device all are activities that can turn deadly in a split second.

However, even though this incident involved a cell phone, it’s actually more old-school. Dropping something on the floorboard and taking your eyes off the road to find it has been a danger since the days of the horseless carriage. It doesn’t have to be a cell phone that falls. It could be a can of soda, a pair of sunglasses, a cigarette.

This incident is a heart-wrenching for everyone it touches. A grandfather and his daughter are dead, and a little boy may have permanent injuries. The families affected are certainly devastated, and I doubt that the driver’s emotional scars will ever heal.

Bauer is scheduled to make her first court appearance March 23. The charges against her are each punishable by up to 150 days in jail.

Police say they will confer with the Mecklenburg County district attorney to determine if the charges against Bauer should be changed to involuntary manslaughter, a felony.

This accident is a reminder of how frighteningly easy it is to lose concentration when we are behind the wheel. We don’t need 4G technology to create distractions that cause a fatal crash. So many times driving becomes so casual that we turn the task over to our mental “automatic pilot.” Then we snack, drink, read maps, jot down notes, apply make-up, fiddle with the radio.

We need to keep it in the front of our minds that driving a car is serious business, and as drivers we must stay alert - all the time.

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