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Video: Teen who died texting and driving inspires new law

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    >>> that was tragically prophetic. taylor posted to a friend that she had to stop writing because she was driving. soon after, she ran into a tanker truck and was killed instantly. her parents are turning their loss into a mission to save others. we'll talk to them in a minute. first, here's nbc's kristen dahlgren.

    >> reporter: the only thing brighter than taylor sauer's smile was her personality.

    >> she had such a big life .

    >> reporter: there was no ignoring taylor .

    >> always bubbly, high spirited and crazy.

    >> reporter: she was a champion softball player. once got the school to raise money for breast cancer research and when she was is named distinguished scholar last year she told the local tv station her plans.

    >> leave and go farther. take on the world.

    >> reporter: she was studying to be an elementary teacher. on january 14th , driving home from college on a lonely and straight stretch of idaho 's interstate 84 , taylor was facebooking. a fun conversation about the denver broncos and then one final post. "i can't discuss this matter now. driving and facebook ing is not safe, ha, ha".

    >> there was no evidence of braking.

    >> reporter: taylor hit a semi truck . the truck was going just 15 miles per hour. taylor , more than 80.

    >> i felt like it was my fault.

    >> reporter: mike didn't know his friend was driving until he got the last message.

    >> you picture your heart with a big chunk of it gone.

    >> reporter: for her family, the pain is indescribable.

    >> it's quiet. it's really quiet.

    >> reporter: but they soon realized taylor might have one more thing to tell the world.

    >> this is how it can end.

    >> reporter: just weeks after her death, they took the message to the state capitol .

    >> what is if that one person was your daughter?

    >> reporter: idaho is one of 13 states still without a ban on driving and texting. opponents claim the state already has inattentive driving laws. taylor 's mom compares it to the seat belt law . there was a time many thought the government shouldn't force us to buckle up. now it's second nature.

    >> i don't know if it would have saved taylor . but i know it will save the younger ones that grow up with it being a law.

    >> reporter: a family still fighting together, inspired by the daughter they will never forget and the final words they want everyone to remember. for "today," kristen dahlgren, nbc news, boise, idaho .

    >> taylor 's parents join us now. good morning to you both.

    >> good morning.

    >> i is see by what you are wearing on your wrist that she's close and you're thinking of her. it's been less than two months.

    >> january 14.

    >> yet here you are. why? why are you here now speaking out?

    >> it's what taylor would want. she was very driven in wanting to do the right thing for people. we just feel like everything was lined out for this is what she wants us to do is make awareness of it.

    >> reporter: she was a distinguished scholar who wanted to take on the world. she was not a stupid kid . what she did was stupid.

    >> she made a mistake.

    >> and she knew it.

    >> she knew.

    >> so what do you want to say this morning about teenagers, about anybody who texts and drives?

    >> it's not worth it. there was a time when we all were able to get into a car and drive and listen to the radio or talk to our family. now we feel like we have got to just get everything done in the car. i feel we need to be a little bit more simpler.

    >> police said taylor was texting one text about every minute during her four-hour drive.

    >> yeah. we think she was probably using it to stay awake. she was tired. but that's not a reason to do it. the kids think they are in invincib invincible. to them, they are so proficient at texting they don't feel it's distracted driving.

    >> you think kids have a sense of immortality.

    >> yes.

    >> which means we as parents have to be more diligent when it comes to the risk of this.

    >> yes.

    >> how can we be so diligent, diligent enough given how much this has seized our children -- facebooking and texting?

    >> we need to bring awareness and educate the kids and educate adults and us as parents. we didn't realize it was as bad as it was either.

    >> in fact, you want to even go further. you want the state of idaho to pass a law that would ban all use of texting devices, facebooking when they are driving. and this vote is happening this week.

    >> yeah. it's passed the senate. it will be brought to the house this week for a vote.

    >> hopefully tuesday or wednesday of this week. it will go before the house for a vote.

    >> some states have a ban like this. but idaho is one of a number of states that does not.

    >> we have an inattentive driving. but you can't be pulled over unless you're doing something wrong. if you're a good texter and haven't made a mistake, it's fine.

    >> so if you are living in a state that doesn't have this kind of ban are you suggesting other states should have this ban as well? and do you really think this law will make a big difference?

    >> yeah. i think every state should have this law. and part of this law is it might not make changes right now. it will be the younger generations that it will be an educational tool like the seat belts . we all fought seat belts . but now all kids wear their seat belts . everybody does. the kids will be trained and learn from a young age they can't text and drive.

    >> your girl sounds amazing. what did the world lose in losing your daughter?

    >> she just loved everybody. she was an amazing friend. but she really -- like on that clip, she wanted to take on the world. and she would have.

    >> the two of you are going to make sure her legacy is strong, it's clear. it's lucky that she has you. thank you so much for joining us. i know everyone agrees with me, i hope you can heal from this. clay and shawna, thank you. we'll be right back after this. [ male announcer ] take a dull morning... ...and make it wild. introducing wild fruit fusion pop tarts all the fruit flavors you love... in a tasty new

NBC News producer
updated 3/2/2012 3:15:17 PM ET 2012-03-02T20:15:17
Producer’s notebook

Two women, two very different passings and two families making their loved ones passing count for something bigger.

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This morning on TODAY, we interviewed the parents of 18-year-old Taylor Sauer. Taylor was an Idaho college freshman heading home from school in Utah. She was driving while Facebooking a friend, ending the exchange with this tragically prophetic text:

“I can’t discuss this matter now. Driving and facebooking is not safe. Haha!”

Soon after she slammed into the back of a slow-moving truck. She died instantly.

Within weeks, her parents, Clay and Shauna Sauer, were lobbying the Idaho legislature for a law specifically banning texting and driving. They know it might not have saved their daughter, but they hope that publicizing Taylor’s story and pushing for the law will change attitudes and save someone’s daughter, or son, or mother.

Courtesy Clay and Shauna Sauer
Taylor Sauer died texting while driving at age 18. Her parents have lobbied the Idaho legislature for a law banning it.

The Sauers are on a mission to make Taylor’s life count in death. And that seems totally appropriate for a young woman who volunteered like crazy and was, friends say, a loyal and fun person.

I know the feeling.

A donation after death
Several months before my mother died of a rare and baffling brain disease, I asked her if she wanted to donate to the brain bank at Columbia Presbyterian hospital. They’re studying her disease, multiple system atrophy.

This cruel illness robs you of most of your automatic functions: walking, talking, even swallowing. It curls your limbs and makes them useless while racking your body with tremors, all the while leaving your cognitive abilities intact.

Courtesy Stephanie Becker
Producer Stephanie Becker with her late mother, who donated her brain to battle a baffling disease.

So Mom always knew how bad things were, but the sicker she got, the more she seemed at peace. Until the end, she was laughing and smiling her electric smile, especially when Dad came in the room.

Because MSA is quite rare, very little is known about it. That’s why the few doctors studying it need donated brains to learn what causes it.

By the time I summoned up the courage to ask Mommy about donating her brain to Columbia Presbyterian, she’d lost the ability to speak. But I’d barely made my pitch to her when she blinked her very dramatic “one blink for yes” with that radiant smile.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was totally in keeping with Mom’s lifetime of small and large kindnesses — from being the cool Mom who soothed our hormonally challenged high school friends to starting a scholarship at her college to cooking my favorite food every time I visited.

When Mom finally left us, the nurses seemed completely confused and in a bit of a tizzy over the arrangements for her brain. Rather than falling apart, Dad was quietly resolved to ensure her donation got to the researchers in time to be viable.

His determination to fulfill her wish to help in a battle that she’d already lost seemed to give him a strength I didn’t anticipate. It was as if Mom’s decision was already giving him a purpose for holding on. They’d been married almost 52 years.

Sometime next month Dad will get the results of what the researchers have learned from Mom’s donation. No matter what they reveal, I am filled with a calm, knowing that Mom’s passing will mean something bigger than she will know. Or perhaps she did know. Or does. You never can tell.

And sometime this week Idaho’s legislature will take a final vote in the texting-while-driving ban. I only hope the Sauers can feel the same calm and pride I do. I hope they do. Perhaps Taylor does too. You never can tell.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints


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