Man has apologized to Amish family for causing deadly crash

Chandler Gerber talks to a crowd about the dangers of texting and driving.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – After a long legal battle, the Bluffton man who admitted he was texting and driving shortly before his van plowed into an Amish buggy, killing three people, has finally met the family.

It was in April 2012 when Chandler Gerber hit the buggy on S.R. 124 in Adams County.  The crash killed Jerry Schwartz, Barbara Schwartz, and Enos Schwartz.

“The Schwartz family has been incredible,” Gerber said.

Gerber spoke to crowd of about a hundred Tuesday night at Parkview’s corporate office.  The event was a seminar designed to stress the importance of avoiding distractions while behind the wheel.

Gerber has become a national spokesperson about the dangers of texting while behind the wheel.  He is in a public service announcement where he retells what happened.  In the video, Gerber reads a letter from the Schwartz family where they said they have forgiven him.

“The first time we met them, I went there and said how sorry I was,” Gerber said.  “They ended up inviting [my wife and I] in and offered us some snacks.  I didn’t think we’d be there very long, but we ended up being there about an hour and a half.  It was like they had known us for 20 years.”

Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards joined Gerber to tell drivers the consequences for texting and driving.

“Young people think everything is going to roll off of them and nothing bad ever happens to them,” Richards said.  “They’re probably more at risk for fatal vehicular accidents than any other group because they tend to be on the phone more, they text more, their driving skills aren’t as good, and they overestimate their driving skills.”

Richards said in Allen County the fine for texting and driving is $35.  She added that the court fees associated with the fine is $180, but police will typically fine someone for texting and driving because they broke some other traffic violation.  “They were probably stopped for running a red light or a stop sign,” she said.  After all the fines are added it, she said the cost is several hundred dollars.

“I rather talk to them about these issues now and have them think twice before they pick up the phone while they’re driving,” Richards said.  “Rather than see them on the other end in juvenile or adult court.”

Richards said it’s not just young drivers who text and drive.  She added that adults are just as guilty of doing it.

Tuesday night’s attendees were asked to sign a driving contract.  Parents and their children were asked to lay-out what would and wouldn’t be acceptable while driving, and then promise to not break the rules.

NewsChannel 15 was a proud sponsor of Tuesday’s seminar.

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