Dawn Jeffrey's pain has ebbed and flowed during the 10 months since her boyfriend was struck and killed by a distracted teenager driving a sport utility vehicle.
Some days, the loss of Kenneth Dorsey, 44, of Norwalk, seems too much to bear and she considers abandoning her fight for tougher penalties.
But Monday afternoon, in dramatic testimony, Jeffrey urged state lawmakers in Hartford to create tougher fines and possibly add points toward revoking the licenses of people who text while driving.
Lawmakers, however, seemed divided on whether harsher fines will be on the legislative agenda this year.
Jeffrey told lawmakers that Brianna McEwan was more interested in viewing the New Canaan High School website on her smartphone than she was watching the road when her Toyota 4-Runner struck Dorsey while he was jogging.
Jeffrey spoke in favor of a bill that would increase the current $100 fine for drivers' use of handheld cellphones to $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second offense and $500 for a subsequent offense.
"I dare any one of you to drive for more than five minutes without seeing someone with a phone behind the wheel of a car," Jeffrey said to the Transportation Committee. "I would like the laws to continue to be stricter and cause more penalties, whether it is higher fines or the loss of license privileges.
"However, what is really needed are more public-service campaigns showing the devastation that distracted driving results in."
McEwan, 17, was sentenced last year to a suspended prison sentence under a youthful offender program.
"(Distracted driving) really challenges the public safety of all people who use our roadways and highways in Connecticut," said Rep. David Scribner, R-Brookfield, a committee member.
But other lawmakers warned that police often do not like to hit drivers with big fines.
"This is worse than driving while you are under the influence," said Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, co-chairman of the committee, who favors strengthening state law.
"It's a culture, a mindset," said Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford. "It's a cultural thing I think we need to address."
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