SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – “Distracted driving kills” is the motto plastered on billboards across the Upstate.
A group known as the Freewheelers of Spartanburg is behind the campaign in hopes of gaining the attention of lawmakers.
“People just don’t realize how in the blink of an eye, you just look at your phone, you look away and something can happen just like that,” Kelly Willenberg told 7News.
But Kelly Willenberg is not like most people, because she knows the outcome of that split second decision.
“A woman called and said to me ‘I’m at the scene of an accident your husband has been hit.'” Kelly Willenberg said.
That call on June 29, 2017, changed her life forever. Her husband, the avid biker, would never ride again.
Highway Patrol investigators say, Dale Willenberg, 57, was killed in a hit-and-run on Highway 221. He was taken to the hospital with severe injuries and extensive brain trauma.
Dale Willenberg didn’t make it.
Morris Edward Davis, the driver of the vehicle that investigators say hit Willenberg, turned himself in the next day.
“What happened to him didn’t have to happen,” Kelly Willenberg told WSPA. “The man looked at his cellphone and looked up and Dale was on the hood.”
After the tragedy, Kelly Willenberg joined forces with the Freewheelers of Spartanburg to fund 8 ‘distracted driving kills’ billboards. Each one of the billboards is the face of a victim.
“We want people to keep it front and center because the lawmakers in this state are not taking it seriously,” she said.
18 states have Hands-Free Laws. All have reported a decrease in traffic-related deaths.
In 2018, Representative Bill Taylor pre-filed house bill DUI-E modeled after the Hands-Free Law. DUI-E would ban the use of any electronics while driving in South Carolina.
However, the bill is still sitting on a committee table at the Statehouse.
“I think that they need to realize it’s a serious problem in this state and we are way behind the states around us,” Kelly Willenberg told WSPA.
It is against South Carolina law to text and drive. Violators can be fined $25 dollars.