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Parents Of Fatal Crash Victim Mourn Son’s Loss To Distracted Driving

“My beautiful boy who was just riding a bike with friends, was lying in the street in a body bag.”

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Editors: B-Roll of distracted driving victim Benjamin Montalvo is available for your use here.

To mark the start of April’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Automobile Club of Southern California joined State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, law enforcement and the parents of a young Corona man who was killed by an impaired and distracted driver, to remind the public about the deadly consequences of distractions behind the wheel.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2021 there were 3,522 people killed in traffic crashes involving a distracted driver. That’s an average of ten people killed each day. That same year, an estimated 362,415 people were injured in distracted driving crashes. Here in California alone, 828 people have died in distracted driving crashes since the start of 2021. Even with these high numbers, distraction-related crash fatalities and injuries are underreported because the behavior is difficult to detect during crash investigations, and police reports often understate the number of incidents.

“Distracted driving comes in many forms, but texting and cell phone use while driving has become the most common type of distracted driving,” said Auto Club President & CEO Greg Backley. “It is never safe to use a smartphone to text, check email, program GPS, post on social media or take photos and videos while your vehicle is in motion.”

When drivers travel at 55 miles per hour and take their eyes off the road for just five seconds that is the same as traveling the length of a football field blindfolded. Law enforcement officers nationwide are working together to enforce texting and distracted driving laws, including a high-visibility enforcement campaign during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

“We know that the problem is serious, and the problem is real,” said California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “Our mobile phones have almost become an appendage for us, but we must not allow ourselves to be ruled by our mobile devices, and we ask all drivers to please not let your phone be the cause of a fatal crash on our roads.”

The Auto Club’s campaign “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated.” is designed to increase the social stigma of using a smartphone while driving, like the stigma that exists with alcohol-impaired driving. Through public education and awareness, the Auto Club asks drivers to put their phone down and focus on what’s important, which is getting to their destination safely.

“There are too many victims and too many forever broken families and friends,” said Corona mother Kellie Montalvo, whose son was killed by a texting driver.

On June 11, 2020, an intoxicated driver, who was repeatedly texting her boyfriend, hit and killed Montalvo’s 21-year-old son Benjamin Montalvo as he and his friends rode bicycles to meet Benjamin’s brother. Benjamin, nicknamed “BeanDip” by his three older brothers, died at the scene of the crash.

“With the choices she made that night, she killed our future as well,” said Montalvo. “I would never wish this nightmare on anyone. No parent should bury their child, no brother should have to carry a casket, and no friend should have to watch their friend die.”

A jury convicted the driver who hit Benjamin of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and felony hit-and-run causing injury or death and sentenced her to nine years in state prison. Benjamin’s parents now share his story with students and the public to prevent other people from making the same mistakes that took their son’s life.

“We are in a prison of our own, one that we will never be bonded or paroled from,” said Montalvo. “Dealing with trauma, anger, and the intense sadness of missing Bean every single day has changed our lives completely.”

To stay focused behind the wheel and prevent tragedies from driving “intexticated,” the Auto Club recommends:

  • Use the Driving Focus features on your smartphone.
  • Pull over if you must call or text someone.
  • Speak up if the driver of your vehicle is distracted.
  • Put it away. Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation.
  • Know where you are going. If using GPS, program the destination before driving.
  • Ask passengers for help. If with someone, ask for help to navigate, make a call or text.
  • Don’t be a distraction. Avoid calling or texting others when you know they are driving.

For more information about the Auto Club’s “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated.” campaign, visit AAA.com/DontDriveDistracted to read real stories of lives impacted by distracted driving, watch PSAs, and watch a distracted driving documentary called “Sidetracked.”

Media Contacts

Doug Shupe
LA-based media contact
(512) 659-1632
shupe.doug@aaa-calif.com
Anlleyn Venegas
Public Affairs Specialist. Spanish-Language Media Spokesperson , Auto Club Enterprises
(619) 565-4556
Venegas.Anlleyn@ace.aaa.com
Gianella Ghiglino
Public Affairs Specialist English/Spanish Language Media Spokesperson
(818) 939-9851
Ghiglino.Gianella@ace.aaa.com
CST 1016202-80 Copyright © Automobile Club of Southern California. All Rights Reserved.
The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.