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Kellie and Eddie Montalvo share the story of their son Benjamin Montalvo, 21, at news conference held at Cresta Verde Park in Corona on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, as part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.  Benjamin Montalvo, 21, who was killed by a texting driver in 2020 now has a bench at the park. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, ɫ̳/SCNG)
Kellie and Eddie Montalvo share the story of their son Benjamin Montalvo, 21, at news conference held at Cresta Verde Park in Corona on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, as part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Benjamin Montalvo, 21, who was killed by a texting driver in 2020 now has a bench at the park. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, ɫ̳/SCNG)
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Kellie and Eddie Montalvo find it difficult to speak about the death of their 21-year-old son Benjamin that was who was texting seconds before she hit his bicycle on a Corona street four years ago.

But the knowledge that their story could save the lives of others motivated the couple to record a public service announcement for the state Office of Traffic Safety and Caltrans that began airing Wednesday, April 17, during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

  • Kellie and Eddie Montalvo hold hands at their son’s memorial...

    Kellie and Eddie Montalvo hold hands at their son’s memorial bench at Cresta Verde Park in Corona on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. They share the story of their son Benjamin Montalvo, 21, at news conference as part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, ɫ̳/SCNG)

  • Kellie Montalvo looks down at a photo poster of her...

    Kellie Montalvo looks down at a photo poster of her son Benjamin Montalvo, 21, at news conference held at Cresta Verde Park in Corona on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, as part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Benjamin Montalvo was killed by a texting driver in 2020 now has a bench at the park. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, ɫ̳/SCNG)

  • Kellie Montalvo looks down at her son’s name Benjamin Montalvo,...

    Kellie Montalvo looks down at her son’s name Benjamin Montalvo, 21, while she holds her husband hand Eddie Montalvo at news conference held at Cresta Verde Park in Corona on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, as part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Benjamin Montalvo was killed by a texting driver in 2020 now has a bench at the park. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, ɫ̳/SCNG)

  • A small memorial plaque for Benjamin Montalvo, 21, nicknamed “Bean...

    A small memorial plaque for Benjamin Montalvo, 21, nicknamed “Bean Dip” stands near the memorial bench at at Cresta Verde Park in Corona on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. Benjamin Montalvo was killed by a texting driver in 2020. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, ɫ̳/SCNG)

  • Benjamin Montalvo, 21, who was killed by a texting driver...

    Benjamin Montalvo, 21, who was killed by a texting driver in 2020 has a bench at the Cresta Verde Park in Corona and is seen on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, during a news conference for National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, ɫ̳/SCNG)

  • Parents Eddie Montalvo and Kellie Montalvo, front, and sons Chandler,...

    Parents Eddie Montalvo and Kellie Montalvo, front, and sons Chandler, left in back and Landon at right, appear at a news conference at Cresta Verde Park in Corona on April 17, 2024, during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Benjamin Montalvo, 21, was fatally struck by a texting driver in 2020. (Brian Rokos, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Kellie and Eddie Montalvo share the story of their son...

    Kellie and Eddie Montalvo share the story of their son Benjamin Montalvo, 21, at news conference held at Cresta Verde Park in Corona on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, as part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Benjamin Montalvo, 21, who was killed by a texting driver in 2020 now has a bench at the park. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, ɫ̳/SCNG)

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In the announcement, Kellie Montalvo, shown sitting in front of photographs of Benjamin in her home, says “I’m not a spokesperson. I’m a mom whose son was killed by a distracted driver” as soft piano music plays.

In 2021, the most recent year for which data are available, 140 people were killed in crashes related to distracted driving in California, according to OTS spokesman Timothy Weisberg. In 2022, 3,308 people died nationwide in such crashes, he said. The Corona Police Department wrote 839 citations in 2023 for people texting or talking on a cellphone without a hands-free device in 2023, Weisberg said.

“We just do it in honor of him,” Kellie Montalvo, 59, said after a news conference Wednesday at Cresta Verde Park, where a bench sits as a memorial to Benjamin. “It is so difficult and you know, a little scary to stand up there and do it, but he was just such a great human being and we’re very frightened by what we see on the road now. We just constantly see people on their phones.

“We know there are more ‘Bean Dips’ and unfortunately, more to come,” she said.

The Montalvos often refer to their youngest son as Bean Dip, a childhood nickname bestowed on him after his three older brothers convinced little Ben that those were his given first and middle names.

“We wouldn’t want any other family to go through the same thing we’re going through, and that is the reason why we do it,” said Eddie Montalvo, 66. “Hopefully, people listen out there and think about what they do.”

The state Vehicle Code says drivers are prohibited from operating a motor vehicle while holding a telephone or electronic device unless it is designed to allow voice-operated and hands-free use, Weisberg said. The driver may use a feature or function by a single swipe or touch. No driver younger than 18 may use a phone, even hands-free.

Barbara Rooney, the OTS director, said Wednesday that touch screens on many newer cars can be distracting even though they are legal to use. She encouraged motorists to set their navigation system routes before departing or have passengers operate those functions.

Eddie and Kellie Montalvo sit in the bedroom of son Benjamin while filming a public service announcement about the dangers of distracted driving for the state Office of Traffic Safety in 2024. Benjamin, 21, was killed while riding a bicycle in 2020 when he was struck by a texting driver. (Courtesy of state Office of Traffic Safety)
Eddie and Kellie Montalvo sit in the bedroom of son Benjamin while filming a public service announcement about the dangers of distracted driving for the state Office of Traffic Safety in 2024. Benjamin, 21, was killed while riding a bicycle in 2020 when he was struck by a texting driver. (Courtesy of state Office of Traffic Safety)

Kellie Montalvo retired early from teaching grade school classes and is involved in other traffic-safety organizations. She has spoken at MADD meetings and Every 15 Minutes presentations at school. She raised money for digital speed signs on Rimpau and lobbies the Corona City Council for other traffic improvements.

, Riverside resident Neomi Renee Velado, 25, was sentenced to nine years in state prison last July. She had three previous distracted-driving collisions, and after hitting Montalvo, drove away without calling 911 as required by law, according to Superior Court records. She had her windshield fixed the next day, and a day later, after turning herself in to police, was seen partying in Las Vegas.

“Benjamin did not stand a chance that night because his killer thought it was more important to text her boyfriend than to give driving the attention and respect that it is due,” Kellie Montalvo said.

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