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Bicyclist's Death Inspires New 'Text Less' Campaign

18-year-old Merritt Levitan of Massachusetts was killed last year in Arkansas when she and six other cyclists were struck by a texting driver. Her story has inspired a new campaign to encourage everyone to put down their phones
(FOXNEWS) - Merritt’s death sent shockwaves through her tight-knit community outside of Boston. More than 1,400 family and friends attended her memorial service, with many unable to make sense of what had happened.

“We all lost Merritt,” Rich Levitan, Merritt’s father, told FoxNews.com. “There were multiple communities she touched when she was with us… It’s palpable, and it’s been really, really hard as you can imagine. She was amazing; she was an incredible kid.”

Hoping to find the best way to honor Merritt’s memory, her friend Emeline and fellow Milton students Abigail Lebovitz and Kaitlin Gately teamed up to create the TextLess Live More campaign, an initiative aimed at encouraging people to put down their phones and enjoy life through their own eyes. With help from Merritt’s parents, Rich and Anna Levitan, the three friends funded the creation and distribution of more than 10,000 blue “TextLess Live More for Merritt” bracelets, as well as kits that explain their mission.

“Merritt knew what was right and what was authentic and real and how to do those things,” Emeline said. “…It was a way to keep her remembered and actively make a difference, but then it just started going beyond that.”

Through their work, the TextLess Live More campaign has spread to multiple high schools across the country, even making it all the way to California. On July 3, the anniversary of Merritt’s death, the schools will come together to initiate a National “TextLess Live More” Day, in which the Levitan family and Merritt’s friends will encourage everyone to not text for the entire school day. In addition, a national public service announcement on the dangers of distracted driving, narrated by “Breaking Bad” star Giancarlo Esposito, will launch that day, reaching millions of TVs across the United States.

While TextLess Live More is mostly aimed at helping people disconnect from technology, the Levitans hope the grassroots campaign will lead to legislative change of some kind, such as banning all cellphone use in vehicles. They believe that the population’s constant usage of technology is both dangerous for others and themselves.

“There’s a gift out of this tragedy,” Anna Levitan, Merritt’s mother, told FoxNews.com. “I think that young people are starting to go, ‘[texting] isn’t so fun as we think it is.’ …We’re going to know in five or 10 years, this constant barrage of virtual opportunity, what the byproduct is.”

To continue reading this article click the Fox News link above.

Click here to learn more about the the "TextLess Live More Campaign."

-Original Story-

McCRORY, AR - Arkansas State Police confirm one of the seven cyclists injured in an accident Tuesday in Woodruff County has died.

According to a fatal crash report released Thursday, Lee Levitan, 18, of Milton, Massachusetts died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident north of McCrory.

Levitan and twelve others were on the American Challenge, a six-week cross country bike trip from South Carolina to California, when a car struck seven riders on Highway 17 around 4:30 Tuesday afternoon.

Tom & Liz Costley of Overland Travel in Massachusetts released the following statement on the company's website:

"This morning we received confirmation that Merritt Levitan of Milton, Massachusetts, died as a result of injuries sustained in a terrible incident that occurred outside of McCrory, Arkansas, while participating in an Overland bicycle touring program. Liz and I, and the entire Overland community, are heartsick by this tragic loss. We extend our deepest condolences to Merritt's family, friends and loved ones."

ASP detectives have questioned the driver of the vehicle, Teagan Ross Martin, 21, of Newport.  As of Wednesday, the investigation remained on-going with the case file set to be handed over to the Woodruff County prosecutor.

No charges have been filed.
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