TEXAS — Pedestrian and bicyclist crashes have been on the rise in Texas since 2020. There have been 67 fatalities in 2020, up from 53 last year, and 21 of those were pedestrians and bicyclists.
On Sept. 1, a new law went into effect that makes hitting a pedestrian a felony.
Lawmakers hope this legislation will help prevent some of those fatal pedestrian crashes.
Others are going outside of the law to try and make an impact on distracted driving deaths.
Jamie White is driving for her daughter. She’s using an app that rewards drivers with points for every minute they keep their hands off their phones and their eyes on the road.
“It’s too easy to want to see what their friends are saying, or, 'Oh I’ve got a text, I’ve got to read it real quick,'” White said.
After her nearly 3-year-old daughter Allie was hit and killed by an alleged distracted driver, the Round Rock mother has become an advocate against distracted driving.
“Unless people hear the stories, see the faces of the victims, like Allie, unless it happens to them, they don’t really understand the impact of what they’re doing,” she said.
Distracted driving is illegal in Texas, but the law is vague and very hard to enforce. Now, under a new Texas law, hitting a pedestrian is a felony, but it only applies to people in a crosswalk.
Allie was hit in a parking lot.
“It’s progress, but it’s just not enough,” White said.
There were 731 pedestrian fatalities in 2020, a 9% increase from 2019.
TxDOT spokesperson Brad Wheelis says distracted driving is the second leading cause of those crashes.
“We’ve had at least one fatality on Texas roads every single day for more than 20 years,” he said. “We need to end the streak of daily deaths on Texas roadways.”
While White says more laws are needed to protect pedestrians like her daughter, changing the culture is just as important.
“We need to make people start holding themselves accountable if our government doesn’t,” she said.
Which is what her nonprofit Allie’s Way aims to do, by partnering with the Safe2Save app creator Marci Corry.
“Safe2Save is an app and an initiative that motivates people to not ‘tech’ and drive,” Corry said.
Corry is Texan and created the app in College Station. Most of the businesses in the app are also local. Corry and the City of Austin launched the “Safest Driver” contest as part of a campaign to promote paying attention on the road.
Participants can win up to $10,000 in cash prizes just by downloading the app here and entering the code AUSTIN2021. For every minute drivers don’t touch their phone in the car, they collect points and increase their driving score.
“We’ve got to reverse culture in this way, because it’s not seen as harmful as drinking and driving, but yet it is, and it’s even more prevalent,” Corry said.
So, until legislation changes, White and other allies are working hard right now to make sure no family loses a loved one from something as preventable as using a phone.