Father pushes for change over distracted driving

His son, Anthony Branca, was 19 when he died in 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – 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 more deaths. But one distraught father is using his hurt and anger to keep pushing for change.

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," said Anthony's father, Demetrius Branca.

Demetrius Branca has turned his hurt into action. He's been a frequent advocate for tougher texting laws at the state capitol.

"Forty-six other states have enacted primary laws against distracted driving," he said.

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

"There's a lot of people who are going to die between now and next legislative session that we maybe could have rescued," Branca said.

The Department of Highway Safety said 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 the Senate sponsor.

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

The problem is the man next in line to be speaker. Rep. Jose Oliva readily agrees that there is a problem, but he worries about infringing on civil liberties.

"I don't want the police to be able to pull me over and look in my phone, but they don't need to look in my phone to see what I was doing to know that I was driving distracted," Branca said.

The tenacious father relentless in telling his son's story said Anthony Branca would be doing the same for him if he had died instead.

In addition to continuing to lobby for tougher penalties for texting, Branca said he's also pushing the idea of requiring hands-free devices if someone needs to talk while driving.