'It's a senseless way to die': SC woman backs penalty for holding cellphone while driving

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Kelly Willenberg's family changed after one split-second decision behind the steering wheel. Her husband, Dale, was a father, grandfather, nurse, and an avid cyclist until he was hit and killed while riding his bike on June 29, 2017.

Now, Willenberg and her family are pushing for a new law in South Carolina; they support a bill filed in the State House that would strengthen the punishment on things like texting and driving, and ban even holding an electronic device behind the wheel.

"Our family is not the same," Kelly Willenberg said. "But...we're all trying to make some positive sense out of this."

It's been several months since her husband, Dale, was hit and killed. The 57-year-old was hit while riding his bike home from work at a Spartanburg hospital. Willenberg says the driver later admitted he had looked down at his phone.

"You know my husband was young. He was healthy and he took care of himself and there's just, it's a senseless way to die," Willenberg said.

Her family is coping while pushing for stricter penalties for drivers who handle electronic devices behind the wheel. Currently on the books in South Carolina, it is legal to text on a phone while stopped; the penalty for texting and driving is a $25 citation.

The bill Willenberg supports would ticket offenders $100 the first time, $300 and points on their license each time after that.

"You know it's never, it's never right, now," she said. "I think that all of us now, we all think differently about driving in a car and what you say to people in how you present things you know. If somebody says to me 'I'll call you when I'm on the road,' I tell them 'wait 'til you get to where you're going.'"

There will be another hearing for bill H. 4480 on Wednesday. Families of fallen cyclists like Willenberg are also meeting with lawmakers to include congressmen this week to talk about the potential law change.

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