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Building On Past Experiences, Bipartisan Duo Work Together On Driving-Related Bills

Rep. Emily Slosberg's twitter/Florida Senate

There’s a bipartisan effort underway relating to driving legislation. They include enhancing texting while driving penalties and making sure Florida public school students stay on campus for lunch.

“And, I read in the Sun-Sentinel that Dori’s dead, and I thank God to this day that I was on that respirator because I don’t think I would have been able to breathe,” said Emily Slosberg, speaking to a group of students about a year ago. “I mean my whole life just changed with that news.”

Slosberg is recalling how she felt when she found out her twin sister and best friend Dori had died, as a result of a 1996 car crash involving both sisters.

When Slosberg was just a teenager, she, her sister, and five other friends agreed to go to a party, after they were invited by a guy at a bowling alley. So, all seven of them piled into the back seat of a two-door Honda civic.

“The driver puts his seat belt on,” Slosberg added. “His friend up front puts his seat belt on. So, we’re in the car, we’re stuck in the car, and he starts driving down Palmetto Park Road. And, the driver starts weaving in and out of traffic. He just starts speeding, and I’ll never forget we almost got into an accident because he almost hit the car in front of us. And, instead of slowing down, he starts speeding up faster. And, we all look at each other in the car…I look into my twin sister’s eyes. She looks scared, but for some reason, no one said anything.”

But, she says within seconds, the speeding car bounced across a median and plowed head on into another car.

“All seven of us in the back seat fly out of the car,” she continued. “The driver and his friend who were wearing their seat belts, they stay in the car. The car we hit—there were three ladies in the car—they were all wearing their seat belts. They’re all okay. As a result, out of the seven of us in the back seat, five are dead, including my twin sister Dori. I survive, and another girl survived. She’s a quadriplegic, who can only move her right arm. She still breathes on a respirator.”

Slosberg says she’ll never forget waking up in a hospital bed.

“I’ll never forget waking up in a hospital bed,” she concluded. “My bone was out of my leg. My ribs had punctured my lung. I had a tube coming out of here. My tongue was half off. I was on a respirator. I couldn’t breathe on my own. I felt like my head was on a machine. I had trees growing out of my hair. All I can think about...my physical pain was nothing. But, I’ll never forget my visitors. I see all my family. I see my dad, I see my mom, but I don’t see Dori.”

That accident changed her family forever. Her father, former Democratic Representative Irv Slosberg, decided to run for office, and has continually fought for enhancements to Florida’s driving laws. That includes a 2009 law partly named after his daughter Dori requiring all Florida drivers wear a safety belt.

And, together with his surviving daughter Emily created the Dori Slosberg Foundation, where Emily is the CEO and talks about her story, encouraging traffic safety efforts.

At age 35, Emily Slosberg, a Democrat, is now following in her father’s footsteps as the newly elected Representative for District 91 in the South Florida area.

One of the first bills she filed enhances penalties for people who text and drive while in a school zone or crossing. She’s also filing a similar bill making it a primary offense for juveniles to text while driving.

And, having gotten into an accident after texting while driving himself, Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) is sponsoring the Senate version of that bill.

“Those are issues that are important to her,” he said. “And, I’d be more than happy to push these issues here in the Senate.”

He and Slosberg are also sponsoring the Mayra Capote Act, mandating Florida students remain on school grounds during the lunch hours. The only exception is those who obtain parental consent.

“That comes as a result of a mother in my district, Mayra Capote, whose some time ago died as a result of leaving campus for lunch and she has been on a mission to try and close school lunches across the state,” Garcia added. “She was successful in Miami-Dade County, where they’re no longer open. And, she wants to ensure that that accident doesn’t happen to any students in the state of Florida.”

But, he says the legislation could encounter some trouble.

“It’s an uphill battle because I understand there’s issues with our rural communities at having the adequate lunch access at their schools, but I will continue to fight and be her advocate up here in Tallahassee,” Garcia  stated.

Both their bills—if they ever became law—would take effect July 1, 2017.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.