New Texas law ends texting while driving

by NICOLE LOPEZ//Sports Editor

Imagine being on the scene, looking at a wrecked vehicle belonging to a loved one.

Visualize hearing the heartbreaking news that one you love has been killed due to an accident because he or she couldn’t put their phone down.

This incident happened to Jeanne Brown, a mother who lost her teenage daughter to a texting and driving accident.

Alex 031Last year, there were around 10,000 traffic crashes caused by distracted driving, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. The Texas Legislature has decided to limit the amount of car accidents and death totals by passing a new law. The law is called “The Alex Brown Memorial Act,” in honor of Alex Brown, who lost her life to texting and driving on her way to school. The law went into affect on September 1. The new law focuses on the use of messaging applications, which include reading, writing, or sending text messages while driving.

This new law has hit close to home, especially for Brown, who is a teacher at Brownfield. Brown, her husband, and her two daughters used to reside in Seagraves. Brown taught business, while her daughters attended school. In November of 2009, her oldest daughter Alex, who planned on attending South Plains College to become a broadcast journalist, was killed in an accident because she was texting and driving on her way to school.

“Alex went off the road and rolled her truck,” according to Brown. “When we lost our daughter, my husband and I felt we needed to share our story to people. We had to let them know it was dangerous to text and drive.”

Brown and her husband dedicated the next three years to sharing the story of their daughter. Brown’s husband shut his business down and Brown resigned from teaching at Seagraves, where she had been teaching for 12 years.

“Alex died in November,” recalls Brown. “So, in December we went to our first school, and it was kids who knew Alex. We felt we needed to talk and tell them this can happen to you if you don’t stop texting and driving.”

According to Brown, from Dec. 1, 2009, her family traveled to different places in Texas, sharing their story. Sharing the story of their daughter didn’t go unnoticed. In April of 2010, they were guests on the Oprah Winfrey show. Later in the fall, “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” was wanting to build a house for someone who has been affected by texting and driving.

“The people who we met from the Oprah Winfrey show said they sent our name in,” says Brown. “In June 2010, we were contracted by the “Extreme Makeover” producers, and they asked us to send in an application.”

In November 2010, “Extreme Makeover” built Brown’s family a house, and the show aired in January 2011. From the exposure of being on the Oprah Winfrey show and school publications writing about the family, opportunities were presented to the Brown family to travel and share their story with the world.

“With ‘Extreme Makeover’ working with us, they told us if we were selected for the house, we would have so many offers that I wouldn’t be able to continue teaching,” Brown explains. “So, I resigned in July 2010 from my position.”

According to Brown, her family had several events in the fall of 2010. When “Extreme Makeover” aired, the family kept getting calls to speak, which had them on the road for two years.

“We’ve been to almost every state,” says Brown. “I tried to keep a list at first. But we got so busy. We drove a lot because we had Alex’s pickup on a trailer. We had to end up flying most of the time because we were so busy. We still have Alex’s pickup. It’s currently behind our house.”

Brown has been back teaching for five years, and she said she still takes days off and shares their story with people. Even though she likes the law, Brown thinks it could be a little more restrictive with regard to what people are able to do with their phones while driving.

“I feel like the law is going to help,” says Brown. “We’ve shared our story for the last eight years, and I feel we’ve done everything we can to help people realize how dangerous texting and driving is. There has to be discipline somewhere. I’m just thankful we are starting somewhere.”

Brown encourages South Plains College students to think before they pick up the cell phone, because you don’t know what could happen.

“I know when you’re young, you think you’re invincible,” explains Brown. “because I remember thinking that when I was in college. It’s not true, and I hope all the students at South Plains College know how valuable their life is.”

[Photo of Alex Brown Courtesy of Jeanne Brown]

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