Mother has message about distracted driving after losing two daughters

Stacey Riddle's daughters had called saying they were on their way home. They would never walk through the door that night, or ever again.

"When I got the knock on the door there was a Constable with a paper in his hand," Riddle said, recalling the March night nearly a year ago, "and I saw 'Jade' through the paper."

Jade Robinson, 17, was in the hospital. Brianna Robinson, 19, was already dead. Both teens had been returning from a Spring Break trip to South Padre Island, says Riddle. She says one of their friends was driving and lost control of the vehicle when she looked down at her GPS. They were struck by an 18-wheeler. She says Jade died at the hospital before she could arrive.

"To know that it happened because of someone's negligence or carelessness hurts even worse," says Riddle, who is now partnering with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)'s TEXT, TALK, CRASH campaign in hopes of sparing other families the same pain.

In 2016, Texas saw 3,599 cell phone related distracted driving crashes. Jade and Brianna are among the 43 lives lost state-wide in such incidents.

Last month Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 62, making it illegal to write a message on your phone while the vehicle is in motion. It does not restrict other phone activities, such as dialing a number or browsing an app. The legislation goes into effect in September. It has been criticized by some lawmakers for being too narrow in scope.

Cell phones aren't the only distraction TxDOT is asking drivers to avoid. TxDOT spokesperson Deidrea George lists eating, grooming, posting to social media, programing a GPS or even watching videos.

"Over 50 percent of distracted driving crashes involve people 34 or below," explained George. "That tells us it's usually the younger generation, they've had their phones their whole life."

Sitting beneath several framed collages of her daughters faces, Riddle explained she has never heard from the young woman who had been driving the car the night her daughters died. While she struggles with the lack of closure, she's eager to lend her voice to the TxDOT campaign educating young drivers of how dangerous a quick check of their phone could ultimately become.

Riddle will join TxDOT for a TALK, TEXT, CRASH event Thursday afternoon at the Galleria from 10 A.M. till 9 P.M. You can meet Riddle and participate in interactive, educational exhibits outside the Kona Grill.