After losing child, Round Rock couple strives to end distracted driving

After losing child, Round Rock couple strives to end distracted driving

The White family had its first holiday season this year without Allie.

Jamie and Chris White, along with their family and friends, are still feeling the pain of losing their young daughter after she was struck and killed by a vehicle in a parking lot at Old Settlers Park on Sept. 29.

Chris White, Allie’s father, said the driver was distracted.

"Thanksgiving was hard without her," Jamie White said days after that holiday. "And as we near her birthday, all I can think about is that she would have been 3 and that was taken from us for no good reason.

Now the family is looking to turn something awful into something good. "The only thing positive that can come out of this … is that through tragedy God makes something good," Jamie White said.

Allie’s family is sharing its story in the hopes of making drivers think twice about being distracted behind the wheel. Since her death, the family has reached out to news media and testified at a hearing with Texas Department of Transportation officials to make roads safer.

The family is supporting the TxDOT #EndTheStreak campaign, which aims to have zero traffic deaths on Texas roads by 2050. The initiative comes after almost 400 people died because of distracted driving in 2018, according to department data. That number might even rise, as the same data show 1 in 5 crashes in Texas are related to distractions behind the wheel.

Jamie White has recounted the story of the tragic day Allie lost her life to many people. She said her husband had taken Allie and her brothers to Old Settlers Park to play soccer, parking at the end of the second row from the field next to a grassy patch.

Chris White put sunscreen on the boys and helped them cross a street in the park before getting Allie out of her car seat. As he turned to pick up a new bottle of sunscreen, Allie decided to cross the narrow strip of parking lot between the family’s car and the soccer field where her brothers were playing.

Jamie White said her husband saw a speeding car with a driver who was on the phone. He took off toward Allie, but the driver turned too quickly, still distracted, knocking Allie down with the front of her car.

Jamie White said her husband tried to grab Allie, but the driver didn’t realize what had happened, speeding over Allie with her back tires. She said the collision probably killed her instantly.

Jamie White said the woman didn’t get off the phone even after parking and exiting her car.

"Something like this was so preventable, you know, to the point of really ridiculousness. It was wide open," Jamie White said. "I could understand if Allie had darted out between two cars and the driver couldn’t react quick enough; maybe I wouldn’t be so distraught. … There is no reason in the world she shouldn’t have seen my husband and daughter standing there."

Round Rock police spokesman Nick Olivier said police are still investigating the case. Once that is finished, he said, the Williamson County district attorney's office will review the case and decide whether to file charges against the driver.

At the TxDOT hearing, Jamie White told officials she and her family are committed to making streets safer for children by preventing distracted driving. The family is planning to set up a nonprofit, Allie’s Way, to advocate increasing penalties against offenders and creating safer parking lots.

The day Allie died, Jamie White said, her daughter told her, "I’m a superhero."

"And she is now because she is going to save a lot of lives," Jamie White said.

The family’s tragic story has quickly spread. Jamie White said she has seen news outlets as far away as England pick it up.

"We have had a massive outpouring from friends to complete strangers letting us know because of Allie they are getting off their phones and being more aware of what’s going on around them," Jamie White said.

The grieving mother said she hopes local parks and other organizations will reassess their parking lots to ensure that they are as safe as possible for children.

"If there had been a speed bump there, (the driver) would have bottomed out her car instead of killing my child," she said.

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