Parents Aim To Toughen Penalties After Losing Son To Distracted Driver

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — A life saving effort is underway to convince people not to use cell phones while driving. One family who lost their child to a distracted driver is leading the charge for tougher penalties.

Pat Warren explains they are taking their fight to Annapolis.

A crash two years ago killed five-year-old Jake Owen. The driver of the SUV that hit his family’s car was using a cell phone.

“The driver, at the time he struck us, was going 62 miles per hour and he had not even applied his brakes,” said Susan Yum, Jake’s mother.

Jake’s parents have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of using handheld devices while driving. A t-shirt campaign challenges residents by zip code to contribute to the cause.

Susan Yum and Spike Owen hope to see legislation passed that will increase the penalties for fatalities caused by drivers on phones.

“Unfortunately, the way the law is currently written, it’s very vague,” said Owen. “It creates enough reasonable doubt where some of these cases, like our son’s case, can wind up with a verdict like it was, which was not a guilty verdict.”

“He was found not guilty of criminally negligent manslaughter and reckless driving and found only guilty of two minor traffic offenses, which resulted in a $1,000 fine,” Yum said.

Jake’s parents want lawmakers to make penalties caused by cell phone distractions to be severe enough to be a deterrent to using those phones behind the wheel.

“The aim is to really prevent accidents like this. We don’t want another family to go through what we went through,” said Yum. “We miss him every day.”

The law will be introduced next year.

For more information about Jake’s Law, click here.

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