Florida father's crusade to ban texting while driving - FOX 35 News Orlando

Florida father's crusade to ban texting while driving

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On Wednesday, a Florida Senate committee will take the first step at making texting and driving against the law. One Florida father has made a texting ban his personal crusade.

Steve Augello said his daughter did all the right things, but the woman who hit her and killed her in 2008 made one mistake: she took her eyes off the road for a second to send a text. Now, Augello said he's helping lawmakers make sure no one else feels his pain.

"I miss my daughter," said Augello. "I miss having the chance to walk her down the aisle. I miss having the chance to see my grandchildren."

Those are opportunities missed because Augello's daughter, Allessandra, was killed when she was 17 years old. Police said the driver who hit Allie's car was texting.

Augello drove to Tallahassee to testify on Wednesday in favor of a state ban on texting while driving.

This isn't the first time lawmakers in the Florida have tried to get a bill passed. Efforts date back about a decade. Florida is one of six states without a ban. However, critics have said government needs to stay out of citizens' cars.

Augello disagrees.

"When I see someone who is on the other fence I show them a picture of my vehicle that my daughter was killed in," said Augello. "I show them a picture of the other vehicle where the cell phone was found in the back windshield after it rolled because the girl had it in her hand."

AAA spokesperson Vanessa Jones said it's difficult to put a number on exactly how many people send texts while driving, but added that those who use a cell phone while behind the wheel are four times more likely to crash.

I'm not sure what number would be appropriate, but one would be too many," said Jones. "I know that texting while driving increases the chance of an accident tremendously so having a law in place will hopefully save lives."

The numbers also encouraged Fortune 500 companies such as Disney and Darden to enact policies. Smaller companies, such as Go Go Taxi in Sanford, are also getting involved. Manager John Deter said the 15-year old company enacted a policy banning talking while driving six years ago and one banning texting while driving one year ago. Deter said he hopes those small changes will make big differences.

"It just takes a couple of seconds to have an accident," said Deter.

Deter said any driver caught breaking the rules would be fired.

Several Florida lawmakers have proposed bills banning texting while driving. S.B. 52 is the bill discussed tomorrow in the State Senate Transportation committee. It would make texting while driving a secondary offense. Augello said the penalties need to stiffer, but it's a step in the right direction.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, distracted driving accounts for 16-percent of all fatal crashes and 5,000 deaths every year. The same group reported that teens were the biggest offenders.  The young drivers were distracted almost a quarter of the time they were behind the wheel, with electronic devices, such as texting and emailing, as the reasons why they were distracted.

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