Father seeks laws to stronger discourage distracted driving

Published: Jun. 23, 2017 at 4:53 PM EDT
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By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service

June 23, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The families of people who have died at the hands of texting, or otherwise distracted drivers, are unhappy state lawmakers did nothing this year to prevent deaths.

Anthony Branca was 19 when he died just before Thanksgiving in 2014.

"He slowed down to take a left turn on his motorcycle and the guy behind him didn't, because he was distracted by something," Anthony's father, Demetrius Branca, said.

Mr. Branca has turned his anger and hurt into action. He's been a frequent advocate for tougher texting laws at the state capital.

Branca explained "46 other states have enacted primary laws against distracted driving."

But, legislation that would have allowed obviously distracted drivers to be ticketed never got a hearing in the House.

The Department of Highway Safety says there were more than 50,000 accidents caused by distracted driving in 2016 alone. That's 136 accidents a day, or almost six an hour.

Every day and a half, somebody dies.

The prognosis for changing the law in 2018 isn't much better, says Senator Rene Garcia, the Senate sponsor.

"It's going to be hard to get that passed through the House of Representatives," Sen. Garcia said.

The problem is the man next in line to be Speaker.

Representative Jose Olivia readily agrees that there is a problem, but he worries about infringing on civil liberties.

Mr. Branca says Anthony would be doing the same for him if he had died instead.