Evans teen brings Texas family to share tragedy of distracted driving accidents

By: Sheli Muniz Email
By: Sheli Muniz Email
Brown family

The Brown family travels around the country sharing their story of how they lost their daughter because she was texting while driving. (WRDW-TV / Dec. 14, 2011)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011

EVANS, Ga. -- Texting and driving. Chances are you do it or know someone who does. If you live in Georgia, it's illegal.

On Tuesday, The National Safety Transportation Board called for the first-ever national ban on drivers using phones behind the wheel.

For one family, it's personal. They are here all the way from Texas to share their story of how their daughter lost her life because of her phone.

"A little bit after 9:30 a.m., the teacher aide came in and said Alex hadn't made it to school. When I couldn't get to her answer her phone, I left campus to find her. As we drove down the narrow county road that we told her not to take, I found her truck out in the middle of the field. She had rolled it," said Alex Brown's mother, Jeanne Brown.

Alex Brown, 17, died in that wreck.

"At that point, my husband said we have to put her truck on a trailer and go to schools because we knew she had been texting. Her phone showed she'd been texting four friends on the way to school," her mother said.

For the past two years, that's exactly what they've done. They have traveled nationwide to talk to schools alongside her husband and younger daughter. They also carry that truck on a trailer.

They have since become well-known advocates after a national television show featured their story.

"I saw this family on there and I said that night I was like, 'I have to have them,' and ever since then I've worked and worked and worked to have them to come," said Evans High School senior Savannah Garnto.

This family is Garnto's senior project.

"My 15-hour product. I've done a research paper on it and I had to do a letter of intent and the letter to my judges about why it was passionate to me," she said.

While she's simply getting a grade, it means much more than that. Garnto knows about loss, too.

"In 2008, we lost my cousin to distracted driving. I don't want my parents to have to sit there and bury me and to my mom to want to pick out my outfit for my funeral and it's really opened up my eyes and I really hope it's opened up everybody else's eyes about it," she said.

A school assignment that's turned into saving lives. As for the family, it's misfortune they've turned into a message.

Alex Brown's little sister, Katrina, puts it this way: "Look at your last text message on your phone. Was that worth your life?"

The Brown family has been staying with Garnto's family. They were in Thomson Tuesday talking to a school and Wednesday will be at Parkway Baptist Church in Evans at 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend.

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