UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY - On Jan. 14, 2012, USU student Taylor Sauer was driving while messaging a friend on Facebook. She was killed in a traffic collision.
Friday, Sauer’s family put on an awareness meeting at The Junction called “Put it Down: Don’t Let Your Send be the End,” to promote safe driving and prevent others from suffering the same loss they did one year ago.
Sauer was on her way to her house in Idaho and was driving 80 to 85 mph in a 75 mph zone when she collided head-on with a truck going 15 miles an hour. There were no signs of Sauer touching the brakes. She was killed instantly.
Her final message to her friend was “I can’t discuss this matter now. Driving and Facebooking isn’t safe!”
The friend Sauer sent her last words to was unaware Sauer was driving until he received the message.
“Don’t do anything you’re uncomfortable with,” said Kali Phillips, a sophomore majoring in health education. “Don’t ever be uncomfortable, because that’s the biggest sign something is wrong.”
Phillips was with Taylor on her final day. She had been dropped off back at her residence hall shortly before Taylor left to return to Idaho.
“We had the discussion with Taylor, ‘Put the stinking phone away,’ but it’s a college student,” said Shauna Sauer, Taylor’s mother. “You guys live on your own. It’s a choice you have to make. You’re going to make your own decisions.”
The Sauer family began speaking out about their cause and telling their story on Taylor Sauer’s birthday on April 19, 2012.
“Someone asked if we were interested. We met as a big extended family to decide if this was something we wanted to do,” Shauna Sauer said. “We knew if we said yes, we all had to be in it together. Taylor definitely had more to say to the world. She wasn’t done.”
About 15 relatives of Taylor Sauer’s — siblings, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles — speak to different groups of people to share Taylor’s story. Each time the family is invited to an event, they see who in the family is able and willing to go speak and send different combinations of family members.
“I miss being able to hang out with her and telling her everything, but she made a bad choice and isn’t here anymore,” said Emerson Sauer, Taylor’s 12-year-old sister. “Please think twice before you pick up your phone while you’re driving.”
Taylor Sauer’s story helped legislators pass a bill on April 5 making it illegal to text and drive in Idaho. This law will go into effect July 1, and anyone caught texting and driving will receive a fine.
Malivanh Soumpholphakdy, former USU student and roommate of Taylor’s, said she texted and drove before the accident.
“But since, never. My phone is always off or in the backseat. I don’t even consider it,” Soumpholphakdy said. “Recognize your choices have consequences. When we text and drive, we try to get things done so fast. She made a bad choice. People care about you. You’re not alone. Be safe. Your choices affect other people.”
Following the stories given by Taylor’s family members on their personal experience of the tragedy, the attendees were provided two bikes and were invited to drive through an obstacle course while texting.
The text they were supposed to send read, “As a student at Utah State University I am committed to not text and drive.”
A year after the death of their family member, Taylor’s family still struggles.
To read this article in its entirety, visit the Utah Statesman website.