By: Jan Engoren Contributing Writer
More than 20 years of hard work, persistence and politicking paid off for the Slosberg family of Boca Raton on July 1, as a new law in Florida went into effect making texting while driving a primary offense.
On Mon., July 1, the Honorable Emily Slosberg (D –Boca Raton) joined her father, Irving Slosberg, CEO of the Dori Saves Lives Foundation and former State Representative, her sister Wendy, local legislators, Florida Highway Patrol, Palm Beach Sheriff Office, community leaders and other families who have lost loved ones on Florida’s roadways for a ceremonial bill signing at the traffic crash site in Boca Raton where her twin sister, Dori, and four friends were killed 23 years ago.
The area along west Palmetto Park Road, is marked with four large crosses and one Star of David.
Slosberg, one of seven people in the backseat of the car, survived the crash, but lost her friends and twin sister, Dori. Another passenger, Maribel Farinas was left a quadriplegic.
After a benediction by Rabbi Sholom Korf of Chabad in Delray Beach, Emily Slosberg said, “This is a huge day for us.” She gave much credit to her father, whom she called “the force behind the Dori Saves Lives Foundation and a great role model in the community.”
“This event was a tragedy for our family, but it is what we’ve done after the tragedy that counts,” said Emily Slosberg.
Irving Slosberg gave credit to the Florida legislature, and singled out many by name, including Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Speaker of the House, José Oliva and Republican Senator William Galvano.
He thanked Governor Ron DeSantis for signing the bill, but said it was “shocking,” that DeSantis did not invite the Slosbergs or any democratic lawmakers to the signing.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said about the slight, “but Florida will become a safer state because you can’t text and drive.”
Also attending the event were others whose lives were affected by distracted drivers.
Distracted driving is defined as any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
According to their figures, distracted driving claimed 3,166 lives in 2017.
Road safety advocate and Key Biscayne resident, Debbie Wanninkhof, lost her son Patrick in 2015 to a distracted driver who was checking her text messages while driving 80-85 mph.
Delpha Samuels, Mrs. Florida 2019 and a Hallandale resident, spoke about the pain of losing her young 12-year-old brother, Aaron, 11 years ago.
Ken and Liz Link of Palm Beach Gardens were in attendance to honor a friend (Harry Faber) killed on I-95 near Melbourne in March 2018 by a young driver who was texting. His wife Claudette was seriously injured. The couple ran the Riviera Beach Motel and were heading to their second home in Toronto when the accident occurred.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay credited the Slosbergs for getting guard rails along west Southern Blvd., to protect people from driving into canals.
McKinlay was rear-ended by a driver, who was texting, while driving her three children on I-95.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Rep. Joe Casello, “It’s bitter because we lost five lives and sweet because their memories will not be forgotten.”
He credited Emily Slosberg’s ability to work across the aisle to get the bill passed.
Other speakers included former senator Maria Sachs, Palm Beach County Fire Chief Douglas McGlynn and Karen Brill, Palm Beach County School Board Member who said about the hands-free law in school zones, “You are saving the lives of our school kids.”
She thanked the Slosbergs for their tenacity and Sachs, an advocate for the law during her time in the senate, for “fighting the good fight.”
Thanks to the Slosberg’s efforts, if you are seen texting while driving, you will be cited by law enforcement. The first ticket will set you back $30 plus court costs. The fine doubles for a second offense and will cost you three points on your license.
Hands free in school and construction zones goes into effect Oct. 1.