Family That Inspired Distracted Driving Bills Wants Them to Go Further

By Julie Carey
|  Thursday, Feb 7, 2013  |  Updated 7:48 PM EDT
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A Fairfax County family who inspired a plan to crack down on distracted drivers is speaking out today. Carl and Meryl Rowley's son died after he was hit by a driver police say was texting behind the wheel. They spoke exclusively to Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey.

Julie Carey

A Fairfax County family who inspired a plan to crack down on distracted drivers is speaking out today. Carl and Meryl Rowley's son died after he was hit by a driver police say was texting behind the wheel. They spoke exclusively to Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey.

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A Fairfax County family that inspired a plan to crack down on distracted drivers after their son’s death spoke exclusively to News4 about their hopes for changes in the law.

The death of Kyle Rowley -- caused by a texting driver, police said -- helped push bills through the Virginia House and Senate that will make texting behind the wheel a primary offense and stiffen the penalty.

“Yes, he will leave a legacy. Unfortunately it’s not a legacy I wanted for him, but if it is going to prevent more senseless accidents, it is something that needs to happen,” said his mother, Meryl Rowley.

Kyle Rowley’s car ran out of gas, so he tried to push it to a safer spot, but another car smashed into the car and him. He died at the scene.

At the driver’s trial, police presented nine text messages sent or received by the driver in the nine minutes before the crash, including a final text police think the driver checked right before Kyle was struck and the 911 call was placed.

But the reckless driving case against Jason Gage failed because under current law, texting while driving is a minor traffic infraction and therefore not a basis for reckless driving. If Gov. Bob McDonnell signs the legislation into law, that will change. The Rowleys hope it will save other lives.

“Part of you is, ‘It doesn’t make any difference,’” Carl Rowley said. “I mean, my son is lost. But then your rational side says, ‘Well, we can help out other people by sharing our story.’”

Meryl Rowley plans to keep sharing her story and waging her campaign because she believes the legislation doesn't go far enough, and now her daughter is just beginning to drive.

“I would have liked to see it go further and ban all kinds of handheld devices, but unfortunately we are taking baby steps, but they are in the right direction,” she said.

She will keep the pressure on to get this bill signed and then start working on next year.

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