Tallahassee, FL – It's Safety Week in Tallahassee, with an emphasis on teenaged drivers. Gina Jordan spoke with a former state representative who is leading the charge because of a tragic loss in his family.
"Dori's accident happened in Boca Raton, February 23, 1996. That was the day I got old."
Dori Slosberg was 14-years-old when the speeding, crowded vehicle she was a passenger in crashed. Her dad, Irv Slosberg, said he was paralyzed when he got the news.
"I couldn't believe it. You know how many times I tell my kids wear seatbelts, don't go with strangers in a car, don't overcrowd cars? This is probably the one time, the first time they had an opportunity, and they just thought they were invincible."
Five lives were lost in the crash, and Dori's twin sister almost died.
"For three years I went to Starbucks, I went to the gym, I went to the cemetery, and I cried. Then one day, I just woke up, and I said I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me anymore. I just said I could write letters to the editor or I could go do something about it. I ran for office, and I became a representative, and I tried to change things in the state of Florida."
Slosberg served from 2000 to 2006. He was instrumental in passing laws regarding mandatory driver signals and harsher penalties for repeat DUI offenders. He also put through the Dori Slosberg Driver Education Safety Act, which adds five-dollars to every traffic citation to help fund driver education. He even created the Dori Slosberg Foundation, which is dedicated to traffic safety.
"The front seat, the guys were seat belted in, and they're fine. Unbelievable. Seat belts are the difference between life and death."
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers. Stephanie Kopelousos, Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation, says three simple actions would keep more people alive: buckle up, don't speed, and limit the distractions.
"We talk about texting. We talk about talking on the cell phone. But it can be reaching over and grabbing a French fry out of the bag that's in the passenger seat. One split second that you take your eye off the road can make a huge difference."
Executive Director Julie Jones at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles says parents are the key. She cites a study that shows parents who speed and get into accidents are more likely to have kids who do the same.
"Nearly 60-percent of high school students said the primary influence on their driving is their parents. The study went on to say that two-thirds of teens say their parents talk on the phone while they drive. Almost half of those teens said that those same parents speed. Finally, a third of those children said their parents don't wear safety belts."
The highway safety department has created a Drive With CARE campaign for teens and their parents. CARE stands for courtesy, attention, responsibility, and experience. Irv Slosberg wants kids to understand bad things can happen to them.
"You just don't want to happen to your parents what happened to me. You just really have to stop and you have to really think about, your car could be a weapon instead of a vehicle, and you really have to make adult choices."
Governor Charlie Crist has proclaimed April 18 - 25 as Florida Safe Teen Driver Awareness Week. It coincides with a critical time for teenagers -- prom season and graduation.