Taylor Sauer, a college student driving home on a lonely road, was texting with a friend via Facebook when her car crashed into a tanker truck at 80 miles per hour, killing her instantly. The tragic irony of the situation was revealed in her phone records shortly after: At the time of the accident, she had been texting about the dangers of texting and driving.
Her last message, sent moments before the crash on Jan. 14, said, "I can't discuss this now. Driving and facebooking is not safe! Haha."
According to the phone records, Sauer, 18, was posting on Facebook about every 90 seconds.
"I think she was probably (texting) to stay awake, she was probably tired," Taylor's father, Clay Sauer, told Ann Curry on The TODAY Show. "But that's not a reason to do it, and the kids think they're invincible. To them, (texting) is not distracting, they're so proficient at texting, that they don't feel it's distracted driving."
Taylor's parents have since become activists in their home state of Idaho, trying to get the government to pass laws against texting while driving.
(See the clip from TODAY above).
Because of texting-while-driving deaths like this one, the federal government is moving to limit in-vehicle communications technology that turns cars and trucks into virtual rolling smart-phones.
Last month, U.S. Department of Transportation secretary Ray LaHood announced a new set of proposed distracted driving guidelines for automakers that would limit the use of in-car tech solutions that are "not directly relevant to safely operating the vehicle, or cause undue distraction by engaging the driver's eyes or hands for more than a very limited duration while driving."
Specifically, DOT is recommending automakers withhold technology packages that require both hands to operate or that could take a driver's eyes from the road for more than two seconds. Further, DOT wants technologies that require detailed input from the driver to be disabled while the car is out of park. That would include text messaging and internet browsing along with such tasks as address entry into navigation systems and manual phone dialing.
Future guidelines may include recommendations to manufacturers of aftermarket devices like smart-phones, portable GPS units and tablet computers. It's important to note that these guidelines are recommendations, not mandates.
The controversy that will play out in the coming months and years is obvious: Drivers are so attached to mobile devices that if automakers don't keep innovating ways to stay connected hands-free, people will inevitably be drawn to using their mobile devices in ways that, it can be argued, are more dangerous.
To read more on incidents of texting tragedies, try reading: Death By Texting, about a Michigan man convicted under a new state law, and More Death By Texting stories.