ROUND ROCK, Texas — Texas passed a statewide ban on texting while driving in 2017, but distracted driving still kills thousands of people a year in the United States.
On average, nine people die a day from distracted driving and that number only continues to rise, which is why one family who lost a child to an alleged distracted driver is exposing loopholes in current state and local laws.
This is how Jamie White wants to remember her daughter, Allie, with a big smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye.
Now, the mother visits a memorial to be with her daughter — a memorial in the same parking lot where Allie was hit and killed three months before her third birthday.
It’s an image White says she can’t escape.
“The last time I saw her she was passing, and I saw her tiny little body just laying there.” White said.
While White sits in silence, listening to the birds chirping and the wind whistling, looking at Allie’s memorial, she gets emotional thinking about that day.
“I remember sitting, kneeling over there and praying, and I just felt like I could feel her, even though she was leaving us,” she said wiping tears from her eyes.
White has revisited those memories and Old Settlers Park in Round Rock countless times.
She says her husband and some witnesses claim they saw the driver on her phone and going way too fast when she made a sudden right hand turn and hit Allie with her SUV, first knocking her down and then running her over with her back tire.
“My husband was kneeling over to pull my daughter out of the way and he didn’t see Chris,” she said.
A police investigation and grand jury determined the death was an accident.
Spectrum News 1 requested the police reports from the Round Rock Police Department, but only received the initial report from the scene the day of the accident. However, the investigative reports are still on the way, including the cell phone warrant from the driver.
In Texas, if a grand jury does not indict, the records are sealed. So, it is unknow why the driver was not found responsible for Allie’s death.
While White has been vocal about their tragedy, her husband Chris has a hard time talking about it. He prefers to work behind the scenes as she takes the spotlight.
“Definitely not something I like to relive,” he said.
Aside from taking care of her other three children, White devotes most of her time to Allie’s Way in the hopes their tragedy will be a wakeup call to everyone who hears it.
White and her husband are strong advocates for stricter distracted driving laws. They teamed up with AAA to promote distracted driving awareness month.
AAA Texas Spokesperson Kara Thorp is working with the White family to share Allie’s story.
“This could be your dad, this could be your mom, your sister, your cousin, your grandparents,” she said. “Every single one of these distracted driver deaths, crashes, deaths and injuries is completely preventable.”
A Texas Department of Transportation report shows a five percent increase in pedestrian deaths. A total of 669 died in 2019 and distracted driving was one of the major causes.
“It’s not worth someone losing a life over a text message or a phone call."
Texting while driving is illegal in Texas, but it doesn’t completely restrict the use of a phone while behind the wheel.
Some cities have stricter laws that prohibit any use of hand-held devices while driving, like Austin and San Antonio. Although, Round Rock does not.
However, even the ordinances in Austin and San Antonio do not prohibit drivers from using their phones when at a stop sign or a stoplight.
A recent AAA study found drivers are still distracted even after the person puts their phone down.
“Once you hang up the phone or send a text message you can still be distracted for up to 27 seconds after hanging up the phone,” Thorp said.
White and her family say, maybe if these loopholes in the law didn’t exist, their daughter might still be alive.
There are pieces of Allie everywhere in the White family home. Pictures of Allie are in every room. Allie’s clothes, shoes, crib and toys are in the same place. The family built a fairy garden in their backyard just for Allie. White even sleeps with the doll Allie was carrying with her the day she died.
“I always keep this one very close to me,” White said.
Just under three years in this world, but Allie has given her family a lifetime of memories.
The White family hopes Allie’s spirit can continue to shine a light on this world, and save future sons, daughters, sisters and brothers from another deadly distraction.