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'Hands-free Georgia is what Merritt wants' | Parents of slain teen thankful for new law

Richard and Anna Levitan are on a mission to fight distracted driving.

ATLANTA -- Georgia’s new Hands-Free law means a little more to one Georgia mother and father, whose teenage daughter was killed five years ago by a distracted driver.

Merritt Levitan and an organized group were on a cross-country bike trip. The 18-year-old had just celebrated her high school graduation with her family and wanted to enjoy summer before college in the fall.

Nine hundred miles into the trip and were on a two-lane highway in Arkansas when, out of nowhere, Levitan's parents said a driver plowed into the group.

“He was distracted by his phone,” said Richard Levitan. “He hit 10 out of 12 of the group and our daughter Merritt was critically injured.”

“When someone says you might lose your first-born, or any child, it becomes a different moment,” said Anna Levitan. “It's disbelief, shock, and then you're propelled into action.

“We know hands-free Georgia is what Merritt wants," she said.

“It's something that we're committed to because we don't want anybody to have to deal with the loss of a loved one," said Richard Levitan. "Think about a loved one that you might not see tomorrow and don't pick up your phone. it's not that important. It can wait."

Merritt's parents are working with several groups to fight distracted driving. They'll be part of a student-led news conference Monday afternoon called Text Less, Live More at the state capitol.

And even if that message only saves one life, the family says it will be worth the fight.


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