Updated: Mar 24, 2020
Guest post by Patti Small
Our guest writer today recently won a Comfort Cub raffle by tuning in to a podcast by Laura Diehl. In what we call a Godwink moment, Patti's daughter and our founder Marcella's son share the exact same birthdate, April 11th. Please take a read at Patti's important message that could have prevented a senseless tragedy. Thank you, Patti, for sharing.
My daughter Megan Marie Small was killed in a head on collision car accident, November 25, 2007. She was a promising pre-pharmacy student majoring in Bio-Chemistry and was returning that Sunday afternoon to Baylor University after Thanksgiving Break. Ten miles north of Calvert on Highway 6, a college student traveling southbound crossed the centerline and hit Megan head-on killing her instantly. Megan’s best friend, Laura Gleffe was following behind, swerved to avoid the accident,
rolled her vehicle several times before it came to a stop. The young man was conscious after impact and brought by ambulance to a Bryan Texas hospital in critical condition but survived. Laura also was taken by ambulance but later release that evening.
You never imagine that you would ever get that dreadful phone call. That only happens to other people right? Well, our lives changed forever that November evening….our family destroyed in an instant. We drove to the accident scene that night. The police officers would not let us near her vehicle.
Megan’s body was already transferred to the nearest funeral home. The officers assured my husband that they would do a thorough investigation. We had no other choice but to drive the 2 hour drive home and deal with this horrific nightmare.
The District Attorney contacted us afterwards and said that he was going to bring this case before the Grand Jury in Roberson County. In March 2008, the Grand Jury “no billed” the young man because of insufficient evidence and no witnesses. No alcohol or drug screen was collected and the young man denied having a cell phone. He said he could not remember anything 45 minutes before the accident.
Losing a child is probably one of the most devastating things that can happen to a parent. The accident was so unusual. It was in a very rural area of Highway 6…it never made any sense to Kevin and I to how and why it happened. Megan was such a responsible driver…she knew every inch of that route to school. The DA recommended to Kevin and I to go forward with a civil suit. We decided to join forces with the Gleffe family who had already filed. We found out that the young man’s insurance company refused to pay any of Laura’s car and hospital expenses. We never intended to go for monetary reasons….we just wanted to know what happened.
It wasn’t until August of 2009 that we found the “smoking gun” that killed Megan. Cell phone records from the young man were subpoenaed after a recent deposition revealing that he indeed owned a cell phone. It showed in those 45 minutes before the accident he placed 7 phone calls and sent/received 15 text messages. The last text message (which he was receiving), place him crossing the median at the time of the incident. What really shocked my husband and I was the lawyers told us (since the accident), he had received 3 moving violations (two speeding, and one failure to stop in a school zone). He had learned absolutely nothing from killing our daughter. We had no choice but to go forward with the civil suit.
In March of 2010, the jury found the young man responsible for the wrongful death (22 M) of Megan Marie Small after only 2 and one half hours of deliberation. Even though it was a 22 M verdict, no money was ever collected. He claimed bankruptcy months before the trial. The landmark verdict however established a precedent for distracted driving accident victims across Texas and throughout the country and continues to make reckless drivers responsible. Megan’s case originally never went into the books as a “distracted driving” incident. Most people are unwilling to reveal that they were on the phone at the time of an accident. Distracted Driving accidents statistics are probably much higher than we think.
Don’t let this be last picture of your loved one. After several years of advocating for texting legislation, Texas finally passed HB62 in 2017. This made texting while driving illegal across the state of Texas. The law prohibits motorists from reading, writing, or sending electronic messages while driving. A person can be punished with a fine of 25-99 dollars for a first offense and 100-200 dollars for a second. This legislation with all its loopholes is very difficult to enforce but it is a start. We need to pass stronger laws in Texas to give law enforcement the tools to do their job to keep our roads safe. In 2018, Georgia passed its first “Hands-Free” Law and already traffic fatalities are down about 10 percent. Let this be a great example that laws DO work. Distraction + Driving = Deadly Choice. Please Don’t Mess With Our Texans (our children, our mothers, our fathers, our siblings, our friends)!!! TALK….TEXT……CRASH……HANG UP AND JUST DRIVE!!! Take it from a mother who lost everything……….
In Loving Memory of Megan Marie Small
4/11/86 – 11/25/07
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