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New Killer More Dangerous Than Driving Drunk

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There's a new killer in Florida, more dangerous than drunk driving. It's already outlawed in 44 states but it's still legal in Florida. It's the "new" drinking and driving, known as texting and driving, but should it be outlawed in Florida?

If you ask Yessica Torres, the answer is definitely yes.

On September 11, 2008 Yessica Torres' parents, Myriam and Wilson, were driving home. They turned left onto SW 127th Avenue from Bird Road.

At the same time, 17-year-old Luis Cruz-Govin was speeding down Bird Road. Records showed he sent a text at 8:19 p.m. At 8:20 p.m. his car slammed into the passenger side of the Torres' car, right where Myriam sat.

"I could feel it inside me, that something bad was about to happen," Yessica recalled. "I called and got a ride to the hospital. They had told me that both my parents were airlifted. When I got there only my dad was there," recalled Yessica.

Myriam died on impact. It took Yessica and her attorney Alan Goldfarb three years to prove that Luis Cruz-Govin killed her mother because he was texting. Yessica and her family filed a civil lawsuit against Cruz-Govin who declined to speak with CBS4 about the accident. Late last year, a jury awarded them $8.8 million dollars after proving Cruz-Govin was in fact texting and driving.

"No text is important. It can wait while you're driving," Yessica said.

Yet 30-percent of drivers ages 16-21 admit they text and drive in a Consumer Reports survey.

Texting and driving is the new driving drunk.

David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, has been studying texting and driving for over a decade.

"If you are texting and driving you are twice as likely to be involved in a crash than if you were driving drunk," Strayer said.

Florida is one of just 6 states in the U.S. without a ban on texting and driving. Why is that?

State representative Irv Slosberg is an advocate for traffic safety regulations who has tried for six years to pass the ban.

He blamed former Speaker of the House Dean Cannon for the stall in legislation.

"Unfortunately the Speaker of the House, Dean Cannon, would not pull this out of the drawer, he was the worst thing for road safety," said Slosberg.

In fact, last year the Senate passed an anti-texting bill in Florida, but it stalled in the House.

Cannon sent CBS4 an email in response, in part it read:

"We must be careful to weigh a proposed regulation with the potential infringement on personal liberty. Personal responsibility remains the primary means to increase safety on our roadways."

Former speaker Cannon's term ended November 6th, and Speaker Will Weatherford now has the reigns.

"All that I can hope for is that Speaker Weatherford will realize that public safety is our number one priority in the state of Florida," Slosberg said.

Yessica hopes legislation will stop others from losing the people they love too.

"If they would have banned this a long time ago maybe this accident would have never happened, maybe my mom would still be here," said Yessica.

In Florida's next legislative session, Representative Slosberg said he will introduce a ban on minors who text and talk on cell phones while driving.

Congress has recently approved $50 million in financial incentives for any state that passes "anti-texting" legislation.

Without a texting while driving ban, Florida stands to lost millions in federal dollars.

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