Florida Coalition

We are a Coalition of more than 35 organizations committed to helping teens leverage the proven principles of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL).  We are affiliated with state and local government, law enforcement and public health agencies, traffic safety and injury prevention organizations, academia and business.  We’re also teens, parents and crash victims.

While teen crashes and fatalities nationwide fell to record lows in 2010, our goal is zero -- no crashes, injuries or fatalities. Ensuring teens survive the most dangerous time of their lives is not just the responsibility of parents, law enforcement and school officials, but of every citizen. 

Led by Melissa Branca, the Florida State Coordinator for Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), our Coalition is working collaboratively to effect change in Florida. We invite you to learn about our initiatives and to join us. There are no monthly meetings or membership dues; your only obligation is to help spread the word about GDL.


  • Deborah Adams | Driver's Education Principal, Florida Virtual School
  • Christina Alecse | Program Specialist, MADD
  • Jay Anderson | Executive Director, Stay Alive...Just Drive!, Inc.
  • Bridget Ballek | Coalition Manager, National Safety Council
  • Dekova Batey | Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator, City of Gainesville Public Works
  • Kathy Bernstein | Regional Coalition Manager, National Safety Council
  • Despina Blocker | Teens Drive Alert
  • Virgil Blocker | Teens Drive Alert
  • Art Bodenheimer | Chief, Lake Alfred PD/FPCA
  • John Bolen | Owner, A Treasure Coast Driving School
  • Demetrius Branca | President & Founder, The Anthony Phoenix Branca Foundation
  • Danielle Branciforte | Coalition Lead and Florida SADD State Coordinator
  • Ginger Brengle | Program Specialist, MADD
  • Laurie Broadus | President, Mothers Against Racing in the Street (MARS)
  • Melanie Brocato | Life Safety Educator, Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue
  • Lori Burke | Program Specialist, MADD
  • Mike Cantella | Board Member, Marisa's Way
  • Gary Catronio | CEO, Marisa's Way
  • Suzanne Caudell | Executive Director, Comprehensive Offender Rehabilitation & Education
  • Julianne Chester | Project Manager-Drive with CARE, DHSMV
  • Pete Cohen | Program Manager, FDOT
  • Judy Cotton | Program Specialist, MADD
  • Chris Craig | Traffic Safety Administrator, FDOT
  • Mary Crew | Safe Kids Florida Program Coordinator, FL Dept. of Health
  • Erica Davis | Campus Activity Monitor, Pinellas County Schools
  • Mary Dean | Program Specialist, MADD
  • Christina Delaney | President, Report Me Texting
  • Marylin Dorsey | Program Specialist, MADD
  • Vincent Easevoli | Executive Director, Florida SAFE, Inc.
  • Jacqueline Edwards | Program Coordinator, Florida SADD
  • Catrese Estes | Director of Program Services, Boys & Girls Club of Manatee County
  • Frank Figueredo | Director, Kids United Foundation/Make A Bridge Foundation
  • Richard Fimbel | Emergency/Incident Manager, DBi Services
  • David Ganim | Program Specialist, MADD
  • Lorisse Garcia | Co-Founder, Always Wear Your Seatbelt Foundation
  • Lynn Glover | CEO, Twin Visions, LLC
  • Amy Goldstein | Dir. of Communications, Informed Families/The Florida Family Partnership
  • Wendy Grant | Co-Founder, Always Wear Your Seatbelt Foundation
  • Karl Grube | Senior Judge, Pinellas County
  • Lisa Gwynn | Assistant Professor, Univ. of Miami Miller School of Medicine
  • Sharon Hall | Program Manager, MAD
  • Anne Marie Hayes | Teens Learn to Drive
  • Sue Holley | Executive Director, Northeast Florida Safety Council, Inc.
  • Dee Dee Johnson | Community Traffic Safety Team Program Coordinator, FDOT
  • Rashad Jones | Director, EPIC Consulting Services, Inc.
  • Chris Keelin | Driver's Education Coordinator, St. Johns County Tax Collector​
  • Tom Kelley | Deputy, Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
  • Tara Kirschner Applebaum | Executive Director, Dori Saves Lives
  • Leslie Knight | Parent, Leon High School
  • Bob Knotts | President, The Humanity Project
  • Daphne Lampley | Administrator - Prevention Services, Operation PAR, Inc. (Live Free! Coalition)
  • Richard Lightle | President-Pinellas Chapter, The Anthony Telesca Foundation
  • Candace Lightner | Executive Director, We Save Live
  • Lorrie Lynn | Director, Grants & Evaluations, National Safety Council
  • Niki McKinnell | Teen Driving Safety Director, DHSMV
  • Laura McLeod | Executive Director, FL Association of DUI Programs, Inc.
  • Martha Morales | Prevention Services Director, Concept Health Systems
  • Renee Napier | President/Founder, The Meagan Napier Foundation
  • Matt Nasworthy | Traffic Safety Consultant, AAA
  • Scott Neusch | Director, Florida SAFE, Inc.
  • Karen Pelot | Board Member, Always Wear Your Seatbelt Foundation
  • Nancy Rasmussen | Chief of Public Affairs, Florida Highway Patrol
  • Sophia Rayam | Program Specialist, MADD
  • Sandy Richardson | Regional Program Mananger, NHTSA
  • Wesley Sapp | Concerned Citizen
  • MaryRose Sirianni | Area Manager/External Affairs, AT&T
  • Karen Smith | Public Information Officer, FDOT Safety Office
  • Ximena Smith | System of Care Site Coordinator, FL Dept. of Children and Families
  • Jessica Spencer | Prevention and Addictions Specialist, Independent Consultant
  • Zanetta Starks | Prevention Services Coordinator, Operation PAR, Inc.-Live Free! Coalition
  • Joe Steward | Community Traffic Safety Team Program Coordinator, FDOT
  • Nancy Sutto | Program Specialist, MADD
  • Angelo Telesca | Founder, The Anthony Telesca Foundation
  • Donna Uzzi | President, Think First For Safety Corp
  • Melissa Valido | Director of Marketing & Communications, The Anthony Phoenix Branca Foundation
  • Petra Vybiralova | Safe Kids Supervisor, All Children's Hospital
  • Juanita Williams | Teacher/Sponsor, Crooms Academy
  • Tanesha Williams | Communications Coordinator, Florida Sheriff's Association
  • Helen Witty | Program Specialist/Victim Advocate, MADD
  • Lisa Worthy | Driver's Education Instructor, Florida Virtual School


The HEARTS Network

Nearly everyone knows someone whose life has been impacted by a teen driving-related crash. The National Safety Council manages the HEARTS Network, a nationwide group of families and victims who have been directly impacted by a teen-related crash. The HEARTS Network - an acronym for Honoring Everyone Affected, Rallying The Survivors - helps families and victims support one another and advocate for change. We encourage anyone who has been impacted to join the HEARTS Network and the Teen Safe Driving Coalitions. 

Personal stories play an important role in affecting change. For that purpose, we have created a “Sharing HEARTS” section of the HEARTS Network webpage dedicated to telling the stories of those whose lives have changed forever because of teen-related crashes.

Visit the HEARTS Network webpage to learn more. 


GDL Game Plan for Coaches

The GDL Game Plan for Coaches is a vehicle for high school and recreational or travel league coaches to hold an open dialog with athletes about enforcing and adhering to GDL laws in their state. The 4-page document includes an overview of how and why the New York GDL program works; offers suggestions for engaging athletes, parents and fans; outlines a sample code of conduct; and lists online resources. Information for coaches, athletes and parents about the Coaches Game Plan – including sample text for a GDL Student-Athlete Code of Conduct. The PDFs are available for download below.

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL)

What is the Graduated Driver License program?

First implemented in Michigan and Florida in the mid-1990s, Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) is a three-step system designed to provide novice drivers with the necessary tools to be safe on our roadways and minimize those things that cause them the greatest risk of crash -- distraction caused by passengers and the use of cell phones and other electronic devices, as well as driving late at night and riding unbelted. There is a minimum age for teens to be eligible for a learner's permit, then a probationary license period, and finally a basic or full license.  

What does Florida's GDL program entail?  

  • You must be 15 years old to obtain a learner's permit and hold it for at least 12 months conviction free.
  • During those 12 months, teens must complete at least 50 hours of driving practice, 10 of which must be at night.
  • 16 year olds are not permitted to drive without a licensed driver 21 years of age or older between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m unless they are going to and from work. 
  • 17 year olds are not permitted to drive between 1 a.m. and  5 a.m. without a licensed driver 21 years of age or older unless they are going to and from work.
  • Be 18 years old to obtain a full, unrestricted license 

Why does Florida need a GDL program?

Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens in Florida and the United States, and their crash risk is four times that of an experienced driver. 

The “License to Save” report issued by The Allstate Foundation and the National Safety Council in December 2011 estimates that 11,322 people have been killed in teen-related motor vehicle crashes in Florida since 1991, and it estimates that 911 lives have been saved since Florida implemented GDL laws. The implementation of GDL programs has saved approximately 14,820 lives since 1991. It is proven to reduce the number of motor vehicle crashes involving teen drivers.

Why are passengers dangerous for teen drivers?

Most teen crashes involve some form of distraction, and passengers are particularly distracting to young drivers. A teen driver is twice as likely to be killed in a crash while carrying just one passenger, regardless of whether the passenger is a friend or a sibling. Carrying two passengers increases crash risk by 158 percent, and three passengers increases risk by 207 percent. While Florida law currently does not include any passenger restrictions, parents should limit the number of passengers their teen driver can transport.

Why is nighttime driving risky for teen drivers?

Forty percent of all teen driver fatal crashes occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. While Florida has a nighttime restriction, parents are encouraged to set an earlier time for their teen to be off the road.

May teen drivers use hands-free cell phones?

Florida currently does not have a cell phone ban of any kind for motorists of any age or level of experience. Research clearly shows that both handheld and hands-free devices cause manual, cognitive, and visual distraction, and the National Safety Council and the National Transportation Safety Board have called for a nationwide ban on all cell phone for all motorists while driving.

How can I help a teen driver gain more experience?

Research clearly shows that GDL programs are the most effective tool for addressing teen crash risk because they help novice drivers build skills while minimizing risk. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, coach, older sibling, neighbor, or friend, learning about and enforcing the GDL program is important. 

Parents, in particular, play a critical role in teen driver safety. Teens who report having parents that set rules and monitor their activities in a helpful and supportive way are half as likely to crash, 71 percent less likely to drive impaired, 30 percent less likely to use a cell phone while driving, and 50 percent more likely to wear a safety belt. By partnering with parents, you can help to ensure that they know about and leverage the proven principles of GDL so their teens gain skills and become good drivers for life.



FLTSDC Quarterly Meeting - September 2015 (Sarasota)


Royal Palm Beach HS SADD - "Buckle Up - That's What's Up!"


Royal Palm Beach HS SADD - "No Texting I'm Driving"


Royal Palm Beach HS SADD - "Youth Safety Day"


Gulf High School SADD - "Battle of the Belts"


Gulf High School SADD - "Buckle Up for Safety"


Monarch High School SADD - "Your Life's Worth Living For" (1 minute version)


Monarch High School SADD - "Your Life's Worth Living For" (full version)


Monarch High School SADD Chapter





Contact Us

To learn more about Coalition membership, our initiatives and/or to provide financial or in-kind support, contact:

Melissa Branca, Coalition Leader

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (850) 570-8879