Class Creates Campaign to Tackle Distracted Driving

These are just a few of the campaigns created to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. They were developed by mass media students at Tallahassee Community College this semester.

Elements of the project are now being used in a statewide campaign to help prevent distracted driving.

Each team of students worked for four weeks to create a website and a Public Service Announcement video. One team created a short PSA featuring a TCC student who was hospitalized earlier this year after a crash caused by a driver who became distracted when she picked up her phone to change the music. Another team produced an original rap song and a music video.

The winning team received $500 from the Anthony Phoenix Branca Foundation. The second-place team received $150.

The campaigns were judged by a panel at a local PR agency in mid-November. Demetrius Branca was one of the judges. His son Anthony, who was a TCC student, was killed in a distracted driving-related crash in November 2014. The Anthony Phoenix Branca Foundation was created in May 2015 to educate drivers about the negative consequences of distracted driving.

“I was moved and humbled to see the impact my son, Anthony, had on the students of TCC,” Demetrius said. “They created compelling multimedia campaigns to educate and engage their peers on this important issue. I am honored to wage war against distracted driving with them!”

SEA Change, one of the student teams, created a campaign titled, “OnRoad Offline.” The team was inspired by the stories Demetrius shared about his son, who he described as “his best friend.”

“(The project) helped open my eyes to a topic I was aware of but chose to ignore,” said TCC student Sage Hansard. “It forced me to look at myself and my own habits and hopefully our project can do the same for others.”

Florida is one of a handful of states in which texting while driving is not a primary offense. Law enforcement personnel cannot pull someone over for distracted driving unless that person is breaking another law.

The winning team, named One Step Trifecta, created a petition on asking Florida Governor Rick Scott and members of the Florida legislature to pass a law that makes use of cell phones while driving a primary offense. Nicole Mendez, Madison Coulter and Serenity James made up the team.

A bill that would make texting while driving a primary offense in Florida recently passed through its first committee in the Senate. That bill, SB90, is strictly for texting while driving and would not apply to other uses such as social media. A recent AT&T study found that 4 out of 10 drivers use social media while driving, and 7 out of 10 drivers “engage in smartphone activities while driving.”

Students in the class signed letters thanking legislators for support of that bill.

“Distracted driving has the potential to affect all of us personally,” Demetrius said. “Anthony was killed because of one driver’s poor choice behind the wheel. We all have the power to save lives and the responsibility to pay attention when we drive. This fight belongs to everyone.”

*The winning team is featured in the main photo.