Florida is one of four states with secondary laws for texting and driving.
During a House Government Accountability Committee workshop, people affected by distracted driving spoke with lawmakers. Family members, state and police officials, and lobbyists all made comments. One father, Demetrius Branca, urged lawmakers to move distracted driving from a secondary offense to a primary offense.
Branca lost his 19-year-old son in a crash involving a distracted driver back in 2013. He has frustration with lawmakers who fail to see the importance of distraced driving laws. “Picking out a gravestone for your son will change your mind about how important this is,” Branca said.
The testimony will help the Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability (OPPAGA) develop a report that will be given to state leaders in the upcoming months. The report will “provide data, evaluative research, and objective analysis to assist legislative budget and policy deliberations,” according to the OPPAGA website.
“You sit in offices that have prestige and that have influence. I’m begging you, please do something about this before it’s someone else’s family. It’s too late. There are people who are gonna die today.”
Iowa’s governor signed a bill into law last week that moved texting and driving from secondary to primary law. Florida is one of four states with secondary laws for texting and driving. Branca told those on the committee that they hold the power to change the laws and prevent what happened to his son for other families.
“You sit in offices that have prestige and that have influence. I’m begging you, please do something about this before it’s someone else’s family. It’s too late. There are people who are gonna die today. Anthony may be alive if in 2013 we had decided to do a primary enforcement instead of this toothless secondary enforcement.”
As reported by the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 192 texting affected crashes and 3,979 crashes due to cell phone use in 2016. 235 people lost their lives in 2016 due to distraction-affected accidents. “When you drive distracted, you are putting the lives of everyone in your car, and on the road around you, in danger,” says Colonel Gene S. Spaulding, director of the Florida Highway Patrol.
The National Safety Council recommends policies that prohibit cell phone usage while behind the wheel. The free policy kit, which you can download here, helps reduce crash risk. Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is running a Focus on Driving campaign, using #FocusOnDrivingFL across social media to spread the word of driving safely.