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What hidden car camera reveals about texting teen drivers

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – A texting driver changed Patty Perutelli’s life forever. The wife and mother lost her husband two years ago when he was hit by a car on Route 29 in Amherst County.

“I know there’s nothing I could have done to change that day,” she said about the day her husband died.

Patty Perutelli grieves at her husband's grave.

Patty Perutelli grieves at her husband’s grave.

Fred Perutelli stopped on Route 29 after some furniture he was hauling fell off his truck. State Trooper Dan Wilson saw Perutelli and stopped to help.

“I pulled my car into the right hand lane of the straight roadway and got out and began to help this guy who lost his load,” Trooper Wilson recalled. Wilson parked his patrol car to block the lane.

Minutes later, they heard the sound of screeching tires.

“I could see the car was sideways. [It was] obviously too fast for me to get away,” Trooper Wilson said. “I knew I was going to get hit. I knew there was nothing I could do to get away from it.”

The crash scene on Route 29

The crash scene on Route 29

Wilson said he ran to Perutelli to pull him out of harm’s way.

“My left hand just got to his elbow and I can remember the look on his face, ‘why are you touching me?’ He had no clue what was about to hit him,” Trooper Wilson recalled.

Both men were hit.

“I knew I was going to die,” Trooper Wilson said. “I handed my ring to Trooper Bar and [told him to] tell my wife I’m sorry but I wasn’t going to make it home.”

But Trooper Wilson did survive. Fred Perutelli did not.

“I fell to my knees,” Patty Perutelli recalled. “I couldn’t believe this had happened. I don’t remember anything else other than calling my boys and telling them they had to come home.”

Investigators believed the man who hit Trooper Wilson and Fred Perutelli was texting while driving. The man was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter. He ended up pleading guilty to reckless driving.

“I don’t understand how a cell phone, or anything, could me more important than somebody’s life,” Patty Perutelli said.

Last July, texting while driving became a primary offense in Virginia. That means police can now pull over drivers who appear to be texting behind the wheel.

But has the new law changed people’s habits? AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Martha Meade said many texting drivers are teenagers justing learning how to drive.

“The problem is they’re not mature enough to know that they cannot do that and that they cannot do that safely,” she said.

Do you know what really happens when your teenager gets behind the wheel and drives off?

Chesterfield mother Nikki Deveaux allowed CBS 6 News to install a hidden camera in her 17-year-old son’s car. The camera rolled as her son DeAndre drove to and from school and work.

The moment we told D there was a hidden camera in his car.

The moment we told Deandre there was a hidden camera in his car.

The hidden camera was rolling as her son DeAndre Liggans drove to and from school and then again when he drove to work.

In the footage, you can see DeAndre keeps his eyes on the road the majority of the time. But, our cameras did capture him looking down several times while it looks like the car is moving and it appears he is on his phone.

The footage also shows DeAndre looking down at a stop light.

When CBS 6’s Chelsea Rarrick told DeAndre about the hidden camera, the teen admitted that he does sometimes text while he’s driving even though it is against the law.

“Technology is just built into our generation, so we’re always on our phone, on Instagram, Twitter, everything,” said Liggans.

 After talking to DeAndre, CBS 6 also watched the hidden video with his mother. She admits her son does play with his music and may occasionally text in the car.

However, after reviewing the video and hearing Patty and Dan’s story, both mother and son agree that there will be no more texting behind the wheel.

Perutelli said if she can prevent even one person from every texting while driving and prevent one person from having to go through the pain that she still feels every day, then she’s done her job.

“Nothing is more precious in this world than life,” said Perutelli.

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