Mourning grandson's death, Westfield mayor supports governor's hands-free device law

Zachary Hyde, the grandson of Westfield Mayor Andy Cook, was killed in a crash with a distracted driver. (Family photo)

WESTFIELD, Ind. (WTHR) - Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb is not giving up on a new law to lower the number of distracted driving crashes in the Hoosier State.

Holcomb wants legislatures to pass a hands-free driving law. It’s picking up more and more support, especially in Westfield from an elected top official who calls it personal.

Mayor Andy Cook shared the tragedy of losing his teenage grandson in a distracted driving crash. His grandson Zachary was traveling in the back of his family van with Cook’s daughter when the driver of a pick-up slammed into the back of them. The driver who hit them was in a work truck equipped with a camera that helped investigators determine he was repeatedly distracted by his cell phone before the crash.

Zachary's death left Cook’s family devastated and emotionally traumatized, knowing the crash could have been prevented if the driver just has been paying attention behind the wheel.

“I don't wish that upon anybody,” Cook said.

Cook still grieves the death of his grandson, even months later. He has also had the pain of watching his daughter and Zachary’s sibling deal with the fallout behind the sudden unexpected death of the young boy.

Zachary loved music and even won an award in a music competition just prior to the fatal crash. His mother had just dropped off their daughter, who would have also been in the van with them.

“As grandparents, to watch our daughter go through the pain of living with this,” said Cook.

It came as no surprise when Cook retweeted Holcomb, vowing to actively support a hands-free device driving law.

Holcomb made his proposal to seek hands-free device driving legislation as part of his State of the State address. He also recognized Indianapolis motorcyclists Lorin Smith and his wife Tina. A distracted driver struck them last summer, forcing doctors to amputate their left legs. They have met with the governor saying it's time to take action.

“Tina and Lorin we hear you,” the governor said.

In 2016 alone, more than 37,000 families lost loved ones like Zachary Hyde in distracted driving crashes. One more reason Cook is speaking out.

“It can happen in a split-second,” the mayor said. “I don't wish that upon anybody. Our lives will never be the same."

The man who struck and killed Cook’s grandson is serving prison time, according to the mayor. But Cook also acknowledged that even the driver’s life who was at fault will never be the same.

Cook isn't finished, saying we have not heard the last from him about the tragedy of distracted driving. He plans to testify at the Statehouse, urging lawmakers to support the governor's proposal.

There are currently 33 states with some version of a hands-free law.