BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Suzanne Salter's world was turned upside down the day after this past Christmas. Her daughter Nicole, who Salter says "was my best friend," was killed in a car crash on a routine run to grab dinner.
The crash though wasn't routine. Nicole Salter, 31, had stopped on Highway 190 in Livonia, waiting to turn left onto Isabel Lane, when she was rear-ended by a car that the police report says was speeding at 61 miles per hour. Authorities tell Suzanne, the impact killed Nicole instantly.
The 19-year-old driver accused of causing the wreck was ticketed for careless operation. In her statement, she told police, "I did not know I had gone into the other lane until there was a crash. I don't know who I hit. I just remember a big thud."
"This was not an accident," said Salter. "It could have been prevented. This was a crash that killed my daughter."
Prosecutor Tony Clayton said his office is looking into whether this could be a case of texting and driving. They hope to compare cell phone records to the time of the crash, which is recorded by the car's black box. While at this point, there's no proof of texting and driving in this case, Suzanne Salter has become a mother on a lifesaving mission to stop people from doing just that.
"I wrote letters to the President, I wrote letters to the governor," said Salter. "If it means writing letters to members of the legislature, I'll do it."
She admits she didn't ask for it, but gladly accepts the role as advocate against texting and driving.
"There have to be consequences," said Salter. "The laws need to be changed. How many more people have to die because they're driving and not paying attention to the road. It's ridiculous. They can just pull over. Put the phone down."
When texting and driving became illegal in Louisiana, authorities proclaimed it sent a clear message that the two don't mix. But in records obtained by the Investigators from various police agencies, we learned that some Greater Baton Rouge area parishes didn't give out one ticket for the offense from June 1, 2014 to June 1, 2015. In that full year, State Police gave citations to 825 people statewide.
Officers with the Baton Rouge Police Department fined 82 drivers in the Capital City. Tickets given for that one year period numbered in the single digits in Ascension, Livingston and West Baton Rouge parishes. In West Feliciana, East Feliciana and Pointe Coupee, where Nicole Salter died, the number was zero. No one was cited for texting and driver for a full year in those three parishes.
It's in sharp contrast to Austin, Texas, which went to a strict 'hands-free' policy for drivers on January 1, 2015.
Tickets for the offense have been issued since February 1, and from that date until June 19, cops handed out 2,344 tickets to people driving and holding a phone in their hands. It is only legal for drivers in Austin to use the phone with Bluetooth technology.
"Why can't we have that kind of law here in Louisiana?" asks Salter.
She has come to know all to well "there is nothing as important as a life."