MISSOURI CITY, Texas - A new law could land you a fine for failing to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk and jail time if someone is injured.
In October 2017, Lisa Torry Smith and six-year-old Logan were hit by a car in a crosswalk on their way to school in Missouri City’s Sienna Plantation.
"My son Logan [was] lying in the middle of the street screaming out, ‘where’s mommy? Where’s mommy?" recalls Lisa’s husband Elliot Smith.
Logan spent three and a half months in a wheelchair. Lisa who was a sister, wife, and mother of two died.
"Having to tell my children that their mother had died, and they would never see her again- it's something no parent wants to tell their child," says Smith. "This driver was inattentive, and rushing, unconcerned with the pedestrians in the crosswalk, and unapologetic about what occurred."
The family says the driver claimed the young mother was running after her son into the street, but surveillance video refuted that version of events.
Without being under the influence, the driver received a fifty-dollar fine for failing to yield. There was no Texas law to allow criminal charges.
"We were shocked. We were shocked that you could kill someone in cold blood and not face any consequences," says Lisa Smith’s sister Gina Torry. "We were shocked to learn that, under the existing law in Texas, killing somebody in a crosswalk did not rise to the level of a crime."
Brian Middleton, now the Fort Bend County District Attorney, worked with Smith's family to draft Senate Bill 1055 which became the Lisa Torry Smith Act. In the spring, the bipartisan bill passed the statehouse and Senate, was signed by Governor Abbott in June, and became effective September 1st.
"What I've seen as a cyclist and as as a runner is people don't want you out there in the roadways, so they can be very aggressive," says Middleton. "But that's something that we're going to crack down on."
Since the law was enacted, if a driver hits and injures someone in a crosswalk, it's a Class A misdemeanor. It covers other "vulnerable road users" who may be on bikes, golf carts, skateboards, or something similar. Serious injuries or death can lead to two years in jail.
"Even if you’re in an intersection and you fail to stop, you can be cited for that, so you can get a traffic ticket for failing to stop and yield," explains Middleton.
The Texas Department of Transportation noted a nine percent increase in pedestrian death crashes from 2019 to 2020. Its new "Be safe. Drive smart." campaign will inform people of the new law and remind drivers to yield to pedestrians.
"You need to think of people who are crossing a crosswalk or on the sidewalk like somebody who might be your family: your sister, your mother, your brother, your uncle, your aunt- and treat everybody as though they were your family because one day it just might be," says Torry.
After spreading the word in Fort Bend and Texas, Smith's family plans to address the problem nationwide to prevent the loss of another loved one who was simply trying to cross the street.