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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

TODAY contributor
updated 3/5/2012 10:27:37 AM ET 2012-03-05T15:27:37

Bright, outgoing college teen Taylor Sauer proved in the last minutes of her life she knew right from wrong — but still committed a fatal mistake.

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Sauer was making a late-night, four-hour drive from the Utah State University campus in Logan to visit her folks in Caldwell, Idaho. She passed the time along I-84 messaging a pal on Facebook about the Denver Broncos football team. But she stopped short, writing in her final missive, "I can't discuss this now. Driving and facebooking is not safe! Haha."

Video: Teen who died texting and driving inspires new law (on this page)

Moments later, Sauer, going more than 80 mph, slammed into a tanker truck that was slowly creeping up a hill at 15 mph. She was killed instantly; investigators saw no signs that she applied the brakes before the fatal crash. And in checking her cell phone records, they learned Sauer was posting about every 90 seconds during her drive.

Story: Battling to make a loved one’s life meaningful after death

"I think she was probably (texting) to stay awake, she was probably tired," Taylor's dad, Clay Sauer, told Ann Curry on TODAY Monday. "But that's not a reason to do it, and the kids think they're invincible. To them, (texting) is not distracting, they're so proficient at texting, that they don't feel it's distracted driving."

College teen Taylor Sauer died when she crashed her car into a tanker while posting on Facebook.

Clay and Shauna Sauer, still grieving over their 18-year-old daughter's Jan. 12 death, have become lobbyists in their home state to urge the state legislature to pass a ban on texting while driving. Idaho is one of 13 states in the U.S. that has no such law in place.

Vote: Do you still text and drive? (on this page)

Taylor Sauer's future seemed a sky-is-the-limit proposition: She graduated high school last year with a sparkling 3.9 grade point average, was class salutatorian, played first base on her softball team and was active in community charities. After she was named a National Merit Scholar, she told a local TV station, "I want to go even further and take on the world."

But her mom told Curry that Taylor was also in many ways a typical teen who got caught up in the modern-day, multi-tasking world.

The wreckage of the car Taylor Sauer was driving when she was killed. Her parents are lobbying for new laws to prevent tragedies like this one.

"There was a time when we were all able to get into a car and drive, and listen to the radio or talk to our family," Shauna Sauer said. "Now, we feel like we've got to get just everything done in the car, and I just think we need to be a little bit...simpler."

Just weeks after Taylor's death, the family testified before the Idaho State Legislature as it considers a texting-while-driving ban, a bill that has been shot down before in the state. Poignantly, Taylor's 11-year-old sister told the legislature that Taylor "would never be her bridesmaid," and mom Shauna told the assembly, "What if that one person was your daughter?"

The state has an inattentive driving law on the books, which some lawmakers say covers texting, but Shauna Sauer noted a driver must be visibly witnessed by police breaking a driving law to be pulled over. And Clay Sauer told Curry he believes a new Idaho law would serve much as the once-debated seatbelt law did decades ago.

Story: Feds to crack down on texting while driving

"I think every state should have the (texting ban) law," he said. "It might not make changes right now, but (for) the younger generations it will be an educational tool, just like the seat belt (law).

"We all fought against seat belts, (but) now, everybody wears seat belts. The kids will be trained and learn from a young age that they can't text and drive."

Working to help other young people avoid the tragic fate of their daughter helps motivate the Sauers now as they still process their grief.

"(Taylor) just loved everybody and was an amazing friend," Shauna Sauer told Curry. "She wanted to take on the world, and she would have."

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