Kyle Rowley's Death Sparks Texting While Driving Bill In Virginia

11:38 PM, Feb 14, 2013   |    comments
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FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (WUSA)--Here's a story that may really touch a nerve-especially if you're annoyed by people who text and drive.

Fairfax County teenager Kyle Rowley was killed by a man sending and receiving messages on his cell phone in 2011, while he was driving, yet he received NO punishment. None. But the tragedy has led to the creation of a new law that's now pending in Virginia.

"I'll never be as happy as I was. Ever again," said Carl Rowley, Kyle's father.

In a matter of seconds, Kyle Rowley went from being a 19 year-old college student with so much to live for, to an abrupt and violent death.

"It's really tough," said Kyle's 15 year-old sister, Lexia.

"You don't come back from something like this," added Carl. "Losing a son is the worst thing."

Driving home from his summer job in 2011, Kyle's car ran out of gas. He turned on his hazards and tried to push it off the road.

Cell phone records revealed that a driver right behind him sent and received multiple text messages right up until the crash. He plowed into Kyle, killing him instantly.

"He wasn't drinking anything. But he did not apply the brakes. Or swerve. He just plowed right into him without any defensive actions at all," said Carl.

The Rowleys' nightmare was about to get worse.

"It was just unbelievable to learn that it was a secondary offense and it was a $25 fine. It was just a pathetic miscarriage of justice," said Meryl Rowley, Kyle's mother.

As a secondary offense in Virginia, police can only charge drivers who are texting if they've pulled them over for something else.  Texting while driving is already a primary offense in Maryland and DC. One study found that drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash. 

"I was floored. I couldn't believe it. We talked to so may people who said if you lived in New York, this would have been murder. You hit somebody, you kill somebody. End of story," said Meryl.

The driver was injured in the crash and said he didn't remember anything. Now, the Virginia General Assembly has passed a pending new law which makes texting and driving a primary offense-with a mandatory fine of $250. But it won't bring back Kyle, whose little sister is left without a sibling.

"That's hard when people ask if you have siblings because I never really know what to say," said Lexia.

So next time you reach for your phone while you're driving, think of Kyle... and the text message that can wait.

"Right after Kyle died, I was so angry. If you looked to your left, you looked to your right, you're gonna see somebody texting. I even saw somebody with their whole ipad on their lap," said Meryl.

"He was just a good brother. He was funny, and really nice to me and stuff. And I miss that," said Lexia.

"As time goes on, I feel more sad for him. Not being able to live his full life," said Carl.

The Rowleys see this law as a step in the right direction. The family would like to see even tougher penalties, including jail time.

Only four states in this country consider texting while driving a secondary offense, including Virginia. For a breakdown of the laws by state, check out:

Written by Andrea McCarren, WUSA 9

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