NEW PRAGUE, Minn. (WCCO) — A driver who was texting when she hit and killed a 79-year-old New Prague man will spend four days in jail after a judge ordered her sentence on Monday.
A Le Sueur County judge sentenced 48-year-old Susan Ann Russo for the accident that happened nearly one year ago on Oct. 28, 2015.
The victim, Joe Tikalsky, was a school bus driver who was walking out to his mailbox outside of his home when he was hit.
The Tikalsky family is choosing action over anger.
Emma Jean Tikalsky, who was married to Joe Tikalsky for 54 years, said Monday was the first time she and her children met with the driver who hit her husband.
“We cried together and they begged us, my daughter and myself, ‘Would you please find it in your heart to forgive us?'” Emma Jean Tikalsky said. “I knew that was the godlike thing I would be expected to do and we did. We said yes.”
The Tikalskys hope other drivers will realize it only takes a split second to take a life and change the lives of so many more people.
“Four days or 400 days, it really doesn’t matter,” Emma Jean Tikalsky said. “I know she didn’t mean to kill anyone.”
Joe Tikalsky drove a New Prague school bus for almost 50 years.
He was wearing his reflective jacket from work when he walked out to get the paper and was hit near his mailbox.
“It’s even more scary knowing that we have this society that is, I’ll say, addicted to their phone,” Joe Tikalsky’s son Greg said. “His kids were his pride and joy and his grandkids were his pride and joy.”
The family is working with lawmakers to lobby for more strict and defined distracted driving laws and consequences in Minnesota.
It is illegal right now to read or send texts while driving, even when stopped at a light.
“We care about people living and something must be done,” Emma Jean Tikalsky said.
Russo will spend two days in jail on the anniversary of Joe Tikalsky’s death this year and two days next year on the anniversary as part of the agreement.
Russo will also pay a $3,000 fine that the family wants used to raise awareness against distracted driving.