ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -
Each day, nine people die and thousands more are injured in distracted driving accidents. Now, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is hoping a new bill will allow states to access money to fund campaigns to combat the trend.
One of the biggest roadblocks to changing driving habits is awareness. Many people who pull out their phones for a quick text have done it before without consequence, but Vijay Dixit knows just how devastating that decision can be.
"These are all petunias, Shreya's favorite color," Dixit said.
There's a memorial garden in the back of the Dixits' home in honor of their daughter, who died in a distracted driving crash at just 19 years old.
"This gives us comfort," Dixit explained. "When we look through our window every day, it's as if Shreya is there, saying 'hello' to us."
For years, the Dixit family has been working to spread the word about the dangers of distracted driving through the Shreya Dixit Memorial Foundation and annual Raksha Walk.
"What we have, actually, is multi-tasking in the car that causes problems," Dixit explained. "Texting, reaching out for something, you are trying to change your CD; then, you are going to go on the telephone. Those multitasking things are the things that really cause problems."
When Klobuchar introduced the Improving Driver Safety Act, Dixit was standing by her side.
"You think of Shreya," Klobuchar said. "We would love to have her here with us today."
Currently, there is a grant program that provides money to states taking steps to curb distracted driving; however, 70 percent of the funds were not used this year.
"The problem is: The money is not getting out to the states," Klobuchar explained.
Klobuchar's bill would adjust the requirements to help more states qualify for the funding so that they can fight distracted driving. Many mourning families, like Lori Hevier's, say public safety campaigns can save others from experiencing the pain of losing a loved one.
"Estimated she could not be looking at the road for almost 9 seconds," Hevier said of the driver who caused the crash that killed her mother, Julie Davis.
On Aug. 2, the Dixit family plans to hold their annuaRakshaha Walk to prevent distracted driving at Purgatory Park in Eden Prairie starting at 9 a.m. They also have 30 scholarships of $200 they are handing out. To qualify, teens must submit a project about distracted driving. More information can be found here: http://shreyadixit.org/tag/giving/