Reporting Rochelle Ritchie
BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Drivers, put those phones down. In less than a month, talking on your cell phone while driving will become a primary offense–a law one family says is bittersweet after they say they lost their son because of a distracted driver.
Rochelle Ritchie spoke with the family who is hoping the new law will save more lives.
The law has every intention of doing just that come Oct. 1.
It’s been nearly two years since 5-year-old Jake Owen died after his parents’ car was crumbled from behind after they say they were hit at more than 60 mph.
The emotions of that day are still raw.
“It’s our understanding the driver was using a cell phone at the time of the accident,” said Jake’s father James Owen.”Unfortunately my son was killed.”
James Owen was brought to tears as he and his wife spoke out for the first time to WJZ.
It was just a few days after Christmas when the Owens family headed north on Interstate 83 toward the Beltway and were violently hit from behind. Their two children were in the back seat.
Almost two years since Jake’s death, the state of Maryland will implement new laws meant to prevent such tragedies.
Driving with a cell phone will soon be a primary offense in Maryland starting Oct. 1.
But the Owens family says the law needs to go a step further.
“In terms of a harsher penalties for drunk driving, we’d like to see lawmakers put texting while driving in the same category,” said Jake’s mother Susan Yum.
Maryland State Police are unable to comment on the Owens case.
But the family says data from the vehicle of the 23-year-old driver shows he never hit the brakes before smashing into them and cell phone records show he was on the phone and texting before the crash.
Beginning Oct. 1, if caught driving while using a cell phone the fine is $100, but the Owens family says it could cost a lot more.
“Texting while driving can potentially cause tragic results. We lost our son,” James Owen said.
The man who hit the Owens family will face a judge in the case. He could spend up to three years in jail.
More than 3,000 people died in 2011 from distracted driving.