KILLEEN, TX — Efren and Merlinda Tabonares are enduring an unthinkable tragedy. Their only daughter, 23-year-old Clarissa Tabonares, was killed by a distracted driver in a horrific automobile collision earlier this month, less than a mile from their home in Killeen, Texas.
Clarissa was a full-time student at Texas A&M University-Central Texas, majoring in psychology.
Police said Clarissa’s vehicle was stopped in the intersection at a red light. As she entered the intersection, she was struck by an SUV.
“My daughter was coming from that side of the road turning west. Somebody did not pay attention and ran the red light, and hit her. This is exactly where her car ended up,” said Clarissa’s father Efren.
Clarissa was transported to Seton Medical Center, where she died from her injuries.
“It doesn’t make sense why this farm-to-market road has to be 55. Because so many drivers don’t pay attention to the light. It has to be dropped down to at least 40 to 45 miles per hour. That way it will be safer for the community,” said Efren.
According to the Texas department of transportation, 1 in 5 traffic crashes in Texas is now caused by the growing problem of distracted driving — which has increased 3 percent every year since 2014.
The state of Texas has some of the highest speed limits in the country, with some roads posting a speed limit of 80 miles an hour.
Lawmakers hope that a new law, which bans texting while driving, will have an impact on the number of distracted driving accidents and fatalities on these high-speed roads and busy small town intersections like this one.
When he retired, Efren was a driving safety instructor in the United States Army. Now he plans to become an advocate for civilian safe driving.
“If you are too much in a hurry, you can kill yourself or kill someone else. And that’s what happened to my daughter,” he said. “Someone didn’t pay attention to the light, and the road, and they killed my daughter in the process.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up for those who would like to help the Tabonares family.