Irving teen run over by texting driver urges motorists to watch out for pedestrians

Despite an increased focus on bicycle and pedestrian safety in recent years, TxDOT says Texas roads are getting deadlier. Fatalities are up an alarming 30%.

Numbers from TxDOT show Texas drivers killed 200 more people walking or cycling compared with five years ago. 

A 19-year-old is hoping his powerful story can help make drivers put their phones away. He’s on a mission to save lives after he nearly lost his own.

On Jan. 13, 2011, Misael Rico was 6 years old walking on the sidewalk with his mother on an early release day from school in Irving. 

"A vehicle ran us over," he recalled. "The driver jumped the curb, running both me and my mother over. My mom, she was trapped with another vehicle. She broke her leg. I was under the four tires of the car."

"I was looking for Misael. I did not feel pain in my leg because I was looking for my son," recalled his mom, Maria Espinoza. "My son was under the other car."

"I vividly remember seeing someone reach in under the car taking me out. I passed out," Rico said. "Next time I opened my eyes, I was a different person."

"The driver was texting and driving," Espinoza said.

While he still has lifelong impacts from his injuries, Rico defied doctor's expectations after three months in a coma.

"They said 80% of my brain was gone, that I was like a vegetable in a wheelchair for a long, long, long time," he said. "I have many brain injuries. I have double vision. But at least I can see, am I right?"

2011 Family Photo

2011 Family Photo

After seeing a series of deadly crashes in the news, at age 12, Rico told his mom he wanted to be part of the solution. That year, there were 675 pedestrians or cyclists killed in Texas. Five years later, the number jumped to 919. 

"You want to do something," Espinoza said. "Pledge to drive safe today. Not tomorrow. Today."

Now, TxDOT is sharing Rico’s story along with a walking billboard campaign.

The campaign along Buckner Boulevard in Dallas Friday urged drivers to pay attention and yield to pedestrians. 

"A life is priceless," Rico said. "But a text isn't."

Nov. 7, 2000, was the last day that no one died in a car crash on Texas roads.