NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas -- A Tarrant County mom is among those celebrating Gov. Greg Abbott’s signing of a state-wide texting while driving ban in Texas.
She celebrates as two white crosses remain firmly planted in her front yard and a shrine of several bookcase shelves full remind every visitor that, for her and her children, the ban comes too late.
"This is our story,” Dee Davila-Estelle said. “And it wasn't supposed to end like this at all."
"This is why we need a law,” she said staring at pictures of the crushed car her entire family was in when it was rear-ended at freeway speeds December 2015. The entire back seat was crushed; 19-year-old Gabbi and 23-year-old Alex were in that backseat.
"That's my nightmare,” she said looking at the picture. “I have it in my head because I think of my kids. That's the last time I saw my kids, so it's pretty much my nightmare."
Only this last week, a year and a half later, was the other driver, accused of distracted driving, was indicted for manslaughter and wrongful death.
"I want to show him a little bit of grace. But on the other hand, he killed two of my kids,” Davila-Estelle said. "I think one day there will be forgiveness. I think one day there will be. But it's too fresh right now."
For a moment on Tuesday, there was also brief celebration as Governor Abbott signed a state-wide texting while driving ban.
"I just started crying. I just really started crying. It was kind of like a joy for me. It was a victory. It's our victory," she said.
In that victory, advocates flooded TV airwaves and politicians' mailboxes for nearly a decade and watched a previous governor veto a similar measure. They say it's just the start of changing a distracted driving culture.
"No, it is not enough. It is a baby step,” said Jennifer Smith of StopDistractions.org, which has been a major part of the Texas campaign. “But it is a baby step we have worked on for 8, 9 years. And it was a step that Texas really needed to take."
Texas now becomes the 47th state with a state-wide texting while driving ban. It is just that, a “texting” ban only. Meanwhile, individual cities, and there are more than 100 in Texas, still maintain stricter cell phone bans. Those, like the complete hands-free law in Austin, remain in effect. Advocates for stricter laws say that is their next statewide goal.
It’s the next promise Dee Davila-Estelle made to her children.
"I promised them the first time I saw them again in their coffins, and I promised them I was going to make it right. And this is making it right. And I know they're rejoicing up there. They're rejoicing in heaven. I know they are," she said.
The statewide ban on texting while driving goes into effect on September 1. A first time offender faces a fine of $99. Repeat offenders face as much as a $200 fine.
In 2015, Texas recorded more than 105,000 traffic accidents that involved distracted driving, including 476 fatalities.
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