Make safety a priority.
Lavon Reese, a 24 year old Florida State University student, was killed in a high-speed, distraction affected crash. The driver of the vehicle, Ashli Harvey, was driving 89 mph and texting. She was sentenced to three years in prison after entering into a plea deal. Reese’s family has focused on changing Florida’s texting while driving laws. The law is a secondary offense, meaning drivers cannot be pulled over simply for texting. Gwendolyn Reese and Jeffery Peaten, Lavon’s aunt and cousin, are working with lawmakers who are already working toward changing the law to a primary traffic offense. After Harvey’s sentencing, Gwendolyn decided to take action into her own hands.
“This is something I can do,” she said. “I can work for however long it takes with whatever energy I have to change the laws here in Florida.”
“I can’t see how people can be allowed to drive and be so very very distracted while behind the wheel of a vehicle that is also an instrument of death.”
Jeffery has connected with lawmakers in the Senate and House transportation and public safety committees who are already focused on texting laws. He has several meetings set. He is also working at the municipal level in Tallahassee to implement local ordinances.
There are at least five bills that are in the works that would make a difference on texting and driving laws.
Rep. Emily Slosberg’s bill would change the level of offense from secondary to primary, and increase penalties for drivers texting in a school zone. Rene Garcia’s bill would ban texting for drivers under the age of 18 and impose fines.
“I’m optimistic but grounded in reality that things like this don’t move as quickly as we hope in the Legislative process,” Peaten said. “What we’re hoping is to get some traction.”
The family said that tougher laws could have saved Lavon’s life. They are reaching out to other families affected by texting and driving to build support for this legislation.