Driving While InTEXTicated: 'Death by Cell Phone'

Thursday, July 16th 2009, 11:26 am
By: News On 6

By Doug Warner, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY - Recent polls show Oklahoma drivers want a law to ban texting while driving, but it may take a Texas woman to persuade Oklahoma lawmakers.

Jennifer Smith's mother was killed at a northwest Oklahoma City intersection less than a year ago.

"You never know how irreplaceable your mother is and how much of you your mother is. The day your mother passes away, you'll never be the same," Smith said.

Linda Doyle would have turned 62 this past Sunday. But on September 3, 2008, she was hit and killed on Northwest Expressway by a driver who was distracted by his cell phone.

"Everyday I want to yell at people and tell them to put the phone down," Smith said.

Now Linda's smiling face is on billboards across the country including one along I-40 near downtown, which towers above drivers who continue to risk 'Death By Cell Phone.'

"Awareness is always the best approach up front to see if you can get people to change habits, but some you're not going to get to," said David Koeneke with the National Safety Council.

Koeneke said the billboards aren't the perfect solution but are certainly a step in educating the public to the dangers of mixing cell phones and driving.

Smith, who often returns to her native Oklahoma City, hopes to help warn Oklahoma drivers and make a difference in the state by sharing the facts like how texting and driving is considered worse than drunk driving.

"I don't want to be on the road with 100 million drunk drivers," Smith said. 

Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas have all passed some level of cell phone restrictions. Missouri and Oklahoma have not. Smith said she isn't sure what Oklahoma is waiting on.

"In Oklahoma, I know all the bills have been thrown out or squashed, and I'm just hoping when they see the neighboring states are doing this, that they'll jump on board," Smith said. "It seems like you have to hear the horror stories before changes will be made, I'm afraid."

Horror stories like Linda Doyle's death by a cell phone.

"My mother is gone and I'm only 35," Smith said.

Chris Hill, who caused the crash, never served a day in jail, but he said he now lives with a heavy burden for the rest of his life.

"Right then, I was screaming, witnesses coming up holding me up because I couldn't handle it. I knew what had happened. I knew right then I had killed her," Hill said.

Hill spoke about his 'emotional' life sentence, and he has a message to share with anyone who's talking or texting behind the wheel. That's tomorrow night on The News On 6 at 10.