More than 170 families who lost loved ones in crashes meet with lawmakers to demand safety changes

ORLANDO, Fla. — All the families attending are tied together through tragedy; each one of them lost a loved one in a crash.


All the families attending are tied together through tragedy; each one of them lost a loved one in a crash.

Only Channel 9 spoke with the Florida families who are asking lawmakers to help them prevent more deadly crashes.

Demetrius Branca said, " People just feel like, oh, that’s just normal. But it’s not normal. My life is not normal.”

Demetrius Branca’s son Anthony was killed by a distracted driver in Florida in 2014.

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It is a pain Steve Kiefer knows all too well – his son was the victim of another distracted driver.

“She was on her phone on Snapchat, and hit Mitchel in his in his first month at university,” Kiefer said.

It was a red light runner in Florida that made Melissa Wandall a widow. “We were nine months pregnant with our daughter, so she was born two weeks later.

These families are sharing their pain to bring about a new policy.

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Together, they are in D.C., meeting with legislators and representatives from the Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, advocating for stronger legislation at the federal level involving road safety and vehicle technology.

“We just don’t want anybody else walking in our shoes,” Wandall said.

Florida’s texting and driving law went into effect in 2019, prohibiting people from typing anything into their phones while driving.

It’s also illegal to hold your device while going through a school or work zone.

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“It was a tiny baby step in the right direction, but what Florida has currently on the books is, in my, in my mind, it’s a political fig leaf,” Branca said.

These families want a statewide device use ban behind the wheel at all times.

“31 states now have these hand-free laws in place. and each time these laws are implemented, we see a reduction in crashes and fatalities of about 10 to 20%.” Kiefer said.

It’s more than just distracted driving; it’s also impaired driving, speeding, and pedestrian crashes – now technology is coming into play.

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“There’s legislation now that’s going to mandate emergency braking and AEB systems. That technology is very robust and has the potential to save thousands of lives.” Kiefer said.

But the families said more needs to be done.

“We’re humanizing the numbers, getting the legislators to understand, getting our policymakers to understand they are a part of the solution,” Wandall said.

In the last legislative session, a bill that would’ve required Florida drivers to keep their hands off their phones at all times received bipartisan support in the House but was snagged in the Senate.

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