Driving While InTEXTicated: Turning Tragedy into Prevention

Thursday, July 16th 2009, 11:27 am
By: News On 6

By Doug Warner, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- At the age of 20, Oklahoman Chris Hill was charged with negligent homicide. His weapon of choice was his cell phone. But he's working to turn his life around by convincing others not to drive while inTEXTicated.

September 3rd, 2008 is a day Oklahoma sports fans spent celebrating the birth and the look of OKC's new NBA team.

However, at about that same time, on the other side of Oklahoma City...

"He seemed so young, such a young kid and he'll live with that the rest of his life," said Sgt. Matt Downing, Oklahoma City Police.

... there was no celebration, only a young man's life changing, forever.

"I was screaming, witnesses were coming up. I knew right then, I had killed her," said Chris Hill, who hit and killed a driver while talking on his cell phone while driving. "I knew right then I had killed her."

Those four words --- I had killed her. They're not easy for 21-year-old Chris Hill to say or admit. In fact, at one point he changed his mind about doing an on-camera interview. That was until he realized his message outweighed the grief he's left with every time he shares the worst moment of his life.

Chris had been on the road and on the phone for less than a minute.

"The second I collided with her, there was a horn going off," said Chris Hill. "I kept yelling, ‘ma'am, ma'am,' tapping her. She didn't move.

"I could hardly write the police report. My hand was shaking so bad."

Chris' red truck struck Linda's SUV in the driver's door and in those few seconds...

"The only thing that kept going through my head was hitting her, hitting her," said Chris Hill.

... he was sentenced to a life of non-stop guilt and endless images.

Nothing has really changed at the intersection where it all happened along Northwest Expressway in Oklahoma City. You'll see drivers texting and talking.

But it's where Linda's daughter, Jennifer, said she agreed with the judge who gave Chris' probation because she had found it in her heart to forgive.

"It made me feel a lot better knowing that there wasn't someone out there that hated me and wanted me dead," said Chris Hill.

In addition to speaking at victim impact panels, Chris wrote about the accident and the dangers of cell phone driving for his college English class.

"I had several students afterward tell me they'll never drive and talk on their phone again," said Chris Hill.

And Professor Sara Stringfield says you can add her to that list.

"I know my accident has completely changed the way I think about using my phone and driving," said Chris Hill.

"Just seeing her laying over sideways in her car when I got out of the truck, that's something that never leaves my head," said Chris Hill.

He's trying to warn others before it's too late.

Thursday night, hear from a local lawmaker who's pushing for a texting ban.

The hold-up in "Driving While InTEXTicated" is Thursday night at 9:00 and 10:00.