Local father cheers NTSB cell phone ban recommendation | News
Polk County, Florida -- "She was my best friend; we had good times together," said Jim Portell of his daughter, Jamie.
It's been nearly a decade since Portell lost Jamie, but the hurt doesn't heal.
"It may be nine years, but to me it's like nine minutes. It plays over and over-losing a child is the worst experience you can imagine," said Portell, his eyes tearing up.
Jamie was just 15 and coming home from a football game when the SUV she was riding in veered off Highway 27 in Polk County and rolled.
"My daughter wasn't wearing a seatbelt and neither were the other kids; they were all ejected."
Portell doesn't know for sure if cell phone use contributed to the crash, but with a car-load of teens, he's positive the driver was distracted.
"The following day I went out there to look and I found a couple of cell phones; one in the water, one in the grass. So to me, they were just too busy being teenagers."
Since Jamie's death, Portell has been outspoken on road safety and driving issues like seatbelt laws, teen driver education and cell phone bans. He's now heartened by the NTSB call for action. The federal agency wants individual states to adopt laws prohibiting cell phone calls and texting while driving.
"I think we really, really need it," Portell said of the proposed ban. "It's getting out of hand, with as many people that have cell phones now days, texting and calling and being distracted."
Since Jamie's death, Portell has testified before Washington lawmakers nearly every year. Unlike cars on the roadway, he knows change comes slowly. But that doesn't mean he likes it.
"We're losing a lot of lives, precious lives, due to people dragging their feet."