’It shattered our families’: Mothers hope distracted driving law is taken seriously

Updated: Dec. 28, 2020 at 10:41 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Starting New Year’s Day, drivers in Arizona can face fines for using a phone while driving.

The state’s new hands-free law prohibiting in-hand use of electronic devices while driving went into effect after being signed by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on April 22, 2019. It immediately made using devices like cell phones in-hand while driving a primary offense, while citations and penalties take effect on January 1, 2021.

New Year’s Day will mean a lot to the families of Caitlin Festerling and Paul Garcia. On Nov. 13, 2019, Paul and Caitlin were heading home from a shopping trip in Oro Valley when they were rear-ended on Shannon Road. Their car was pushed into the path of an oncoming pick-up truck. They did not survive the crash.

KOLD News 13 obtained a 72-page incident report from the Oro Valley Police Department. Investigators say there were no skid marks at the scene of the crash to indicate the driver who hit Paul and Caitlin from behind tried to brake. Phone records later showed the driver had sent and received text messages at 3:39 p.m. and 3:40 p.m., one minute before the first 911 call.

That moment of suspected distraction is all it took.

“It shattered our families,” said Paul’s mother, Deborah Garcia. “It’s destroyed lives. Nobody should have to go through this for a text conversation that could have waited.”

They’re not the only ones who have seen the deadly impacts a quick text can have.

“We know that 1.5 million car accidents are caused by cell phone use,” said Attorney Marc Lamber who deals with personal injury cases.

“We know it makes you much more dangerous when you drive, we know it increases your likelihood you’ll be in an accident. So just don’t do it,” said Lamber.

Garcia and Julie Festerling hope people will take the law seriously with fines now being enforced.

“There was a time in our life where we thought our family was invincible too and we never imagined anything like this to happen to our family,” said Festerling.

If not, Garcia and Festerling said they may lobby for higher fines, similar to those of a DUI.

They said they will do anything to keep people off their phones and to keep other families from suffering the same fate.

“Know that innocent people are dying because of this. And it could be you. It could be your children,” said Garcia.

A quick look at what’s allowed courtesy of the The Arizona Department of Public Safety:

Photos Courtesy of AZDPS
Photos Courtesy of AZDPS(Photos Courtesy of AZDPS)
Photos Courtesy of AZDPS
Photos Courtesy of AZDPS(Photos Courtesy of AZDPS)

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