Florida family demands tougher laws on texting & driving in Florida after son's death.
On November 7th, 2014, a distracted driver killed 19-year-old Anthony Branca. "He was killed because someone else chose to make driving less than important," said Demetrius Branca, Anthony's father and president of the Anthony Phoenix Branca Foundation. "Every day I get in the car and spot countless drivers looking at their phones while they should be driving. This poses a danger to everyone and is killing innocent people, like Anthony."
Distracted driving is the leading cause of death among teenagers (surpassing drunk driving) and the numbers are trending upward. According to NHTSA, in 2014, there were 3,179 people killed and 431,000 injured in crashes nationally involving a distracted driver. The truth is that these numbers are likely even higher than can be calculated because distracted driving remains underreported, difficult to prove, and currently in the state of Florida almost impossible to punish.
"In an instant, Anthony's life was stolen from him and our lives were forever shattered," said Lora Branca, Anthony's mother. We would later learn that the driver who killed Anthony was not paying attention to the road, he was distracted by 'something'. It was senseless then, and continues to feel senseless to me today."
Currently, it is only a secondary offense to text & drive in the state of Florida. That means you must be doing something else that is otherwise considered illegal (like speeding or running a red light) for a law enforcement officer to pull you over and cite you for texting & driving.
"We've spoken to law enforcement officers - they tell us 'their hands are tied'. With the way the law is currently written in Florida, [law enforcement] can witness a driver buried in their cell phone WHILE driving, and have zero authority to pull that driver over. Right now, your chances of getting hit, killed, or having a family member killed by a distracted driver is far greater than the chances of you being pulled over for looking at your cell phone while driving. That's absurd, and I am calling on the citizens of Florida to help me change the law," said Demetrius Branca.
Lives are lost while Florida falls short of the national standard
41 other states have adopted primary enforcement of anti-texting & driving laws
The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety released their annual report, the 2016 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, which serves as a report card for all 50 states. States are graded on the enactment of 15 basic traffic safety laws that are proven to prevent or decrease driving related fatalities. Florida received a “red rating”, meaning “seriously behind in the adoption of the 15 recommended laws”; among these included the adoption of driver anti-texting bans and primary enforcement.
- Distracted driving crashes made up more than 12 percent of all crashes in Florida in 2015†.
- The percentage of drivers text-messaging or visibly manipulating handheld devices increased from 1.7 percent in 2013 to 2.2 percent in 2014†.
- Research has shown that because of the degree of cognitive distraction these devices cause, the behavior of drivers using mobile phones (whether hand-held or hands-free) is equivalent to the behavior of drivers at the threshold of the legal limit for alcohol (0.08% BAC).†
Last year, 3 separate bills were proposed in the Florida House and the Florida Senate respectively, regarding anti-texting & driving legislation. None of the bills were heard by any legislative committees, thereby not meeting the requirements to be made into a law.
"Across the nation, state legislatures are missing in action while more people are being killed in motor vehicle crashes." -Jackie Gillan, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
"We need help from our elected officials to increase enforcement power and prevent senseless road tragedies from occurring to other families," furthered Demetrius. "Sign our petition to make texting & driving a primary offense in the state of Florida. Together, we can influence Florida legislation to save lives and make our roads a safer place for everyone."
The Anthony Phoenix Branca Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness on the consequences of distracted driving. We’re on a mission to educate drivers, save lives, and end this deadly epidemic.
We are a network of individuals, united for one purpose: to upheave social norms and eradicate distracted driving, #BecauseAnthony. Our Bandana Army is growing in both strength and numbers. Our revolution has taken shape, but we need your help!