Fla. Hopes To Save Young Drivers' Lives With Billboards, Website

Nov 28, 2012

The state of Florida is launching a new billboard and website campaign to try and educate young people about the dangers of distracted and drunk driving. The “Be Ready for the Road Ahead” campaign is targeting drivers who are most likely to die in car crashes.

Drivers under age 20 are three times more likely than older drivers to have a fatal car crash. That’s according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Linda Silva’s 19-year-old son, Alex, was one of them. In 2009, he was at a friend’s house 90 seconds away from his parents’ house in South Florida. He’d been drinking beer. It was raining when he started the drive home.

Silva said, "He had probably done it before and gotten home safely. And when we talk to DUI offenders, most of them think they’re gonna make it. And they do; most of them do.”

Alex was in college, working toward a degree in sports management or pharmacy. His mother says, he was a good person, but he made a couple of bad decisions.

“He dropped his cell phone, went to pick it up, went over the swale, overcorrected and hit the tree in the median, and died instantly.”

He was about 45 seconds away from his driveway at the time of the crash. Silva is cofounder of Angels on Your Shoulders, a nonprofit that tries to prevent more deaths by sharing stories like Alex’s. She spoke at the Florida Capitol on Wednesday.

"That pain does not stop," she said. "It never goes away. It’s in our blood. It’s in our cells. We are in love with our children, and we don’t want to lose them.”

Preventing more deaths is also the goal of a new state campaign that’s putting up billboards all over Florida. The boards, donated by the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association, will direct people to a website, MyFirstLicense.com.

Sue Holley, the president of the Florida Association of DUI Programs, said, the site has lots of information about general road rules, drunk driving and distracted driving.

She said, “It is important to start very early with raising the level of awareness of drivers and passengers, to recognize the dangers of all activities and actions that cause even a fraction of a second’s distraction.”

Holley said, that’s all it takes to cause a preventable, fatal crash. She then praised a texting ban bill that state Sen. Nancy Detert has filed in the Florida Legislature. The bill has failed to pass at least twice before, but the National Transportation Safety Board continues to urge Florida and several other states to make it illegal to text and drive.