AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reported that a total of 431 people died in distracted driving crashes in 2021, marking a 17% increase from 2020. Nearly 3,000 people were seriously injured in distracted driving crashes last year as well.
TxDOT began hosting outreach events around the state this past week as part of its "Talk. Text. Crash." campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
On Monday, TxDOT held an event in Austin as part of the campaign. At the center of it is Jamie White, a Round Rock mother who lost her 2-year-old daughter, Allie, in a distracted driving crash in 2019.
"I see Allie as a superhero because her life was taken by a distracted driver, which was completely preventable. But her story is just impacting so many lives. People hear her story and they cry and it makes them think about what they're doing when they're driving," White said.
The toddler died in late September 2019 after she was hit by a car in a parking lot near Old Settlers Park in Round Rock. An off-duty firefighter and police officer were there to help Allie before first responders arrived. She died that same afternoon.
In recorded witness testimony, a witness stated that she saw the driver on the phone, making a turn and looking in the opposite direction before hitting Allie.
Since the tragic loss of their baby girl, White and her family turned their grief into advocacy through an organization they launched and joined the "Talk. Text. Crash." campaign.
"So after this happened, our family felt like we needed to do something. We couldn't just sit back and let it happen to another family and let them go through the devastating loss that we've gone through," White said. "So we built a foundation called Allie's Way. It's to spread awareness about the dangers of distracted driving to share Allies' story with everybody that we can possibly share it with. Share her face and try to impact those lives so, again, we won't have this happen again."
Distracted driving is a crime in Texas. Since Sept. 1, 2017, it has been illegal to read, write or send a text message while driving in Texas. Violators face a fine of up to $200.
TxDOT shared some tips on how to prevent distracted driving:
- Always give driving your full attention; remember that any distraction is dangerous.
- Pull off the road entirely and come to a complete stop before you talk on your phone or text.
- Put your phone away, turn it off, or use an app or your phone settings to block texts and calls while driving.
- Tell friends, family and coworkers you won’t respond to texts or calls while driving.
“Distracted driving crashes are 100% preventable, and we’re urging everyone to just drive whenever they’re behind the wheel,” TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams said in a release. “Texans are killed each year simply because someone was distracted by their phone, radio, navigation system, eating or drinking, or even by others in the car. When your focus isn’t on driving, you’re putting yourself, your passengers and everyone else on the road at risk.”
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