SPECIAL REPORT: Lufkin kids say texting laws wouldn't stop them

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - One letter is enough to kill you.

"I try to like hold the phone in front of the windshield that way I can sort of halfway see out in front of me and like see my phone screen at the same time," said Amy Yates, a student at Lufkin High.

That's all it took to kill Tatum High School student Lillian Propes in March.

It was also one text message that killed West Texas teen Alex Brown.

"I think this is like drunk driving," said LHS Superintendent Roy Knight. "How many children are going to have to die on the side of the highway, how many families are going to experience a loss that they'll mourn for years and years and years before that message sinks in."

For Knight, it's personal. He's buried three students because of a cellphone.

"It has an impact for a while and then that too wears off," Knight said.

"We've made stops where we thought maybe they were intoxicated and they were talking on the phone," DPS spokesman Greg Sanches said.

In 2009, 408 Texans, enough to fill five school buses, died in a car crash because they were distracted.

But, in Texas, there's no ban on texting and driving, unless you're in a school zone, you're a bus driver, or under 18.

"When you look at the polls, it shows that the public is behind those laws, but we'll just have to wait and see again what our legislators do," Sanches said.

Lisa King has been working with the Texas Child Fatality Review Team to curb texting behind the wheel.

"You would think that just doing an 'OMG' only would take your mind off of it that long, but what if that 'OMG' was the last thing that driver saw?" King said. "Then you would say oh my God."

Imagine closing your eyes for five seconds while you're driving. You just sent a text message.

"We're hard-pressed to keep kids following the rules of using a cellphone during the school day and so it's not surprising to me that in this generation of staying in touch all the time, that kids are dying on the sides of the highway and endangering themselves and others as well," Knight said.

All ten students questioned at LHS say they're guilty of texting and driving.

Many have had close calls.

One even had a family member who had been in a wreck.

"I've had close calls where you just kind of look up and you didn't realize a car pulled in front of you or something like that," Jacob Rhodes said.

Some have employed strategies to be safer.

"I don't have text messaging anymore," Amy Ly said.

"A lot of times I try to keep it on silent or vibrate because my mom, referring to the whole thing, says if it's not Jesus Christ calling then you should not answer the phone," De'Auntre Smiley said.

State troopers tell us adults are just as guilty of typing and driving.

"My mom like had me when I first got my car, she had me like sign a whole contract not to text and drive and stuff like that which is she wrote it out herself, which it's not real, but every time I get in the car with her she texts and drives," Bianco Jasso said.

The students say a law is unlikely to permanently change their deadly habit.

"If it is made into a law, I think it's just going to be like any other law," Yates said. "If we think we can get away with it, we're going to try it."

The students even say, they'll probably put down their phones after the talk, but pick them back up in a day or so.

"What we're doing now is not working," Knight said.

Brown's parents share their daughter's tragedy hoping for someone it will be enough to change.

"Until the kids themselves make that choice that they're more valuable than that text message, that their lives are more valuable than that text message, it's not going to stop," his mother said.

All it takes is one character, one click, one choice that you can't erase.

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