The father of a Des Moines teenager who died in a drunk driving crash was at the statehouse today (Tuesday), joining with Governor Tom Vilsack’s call for tougher punishment for adults who provide alcohol to kids. Tony Bisignano is a former state Senator who served in the Senate with Governor Vilsack. Bisignano’s teenage son, Nick, died last summer.

Tony Bisignano says he and the governor discussed current law, and both support changes such as barring teens from using a cell phone while driving, making it illegal for a teen driver to have non-relatives in the passenger seats, and increasing the fines for providing alcohol to a minor. Bisignano says it should be a felony when adults sell alcohol to a minor for profit.

Today, adults who provide alcohol to minors only face a felony if something bad happens, like an injury or death. Bisignano says there should be serious consequences for anyone who provides alcohol to a minor, regardless of the outcome.
Bisignano says his older daughters are “extremely happy” it wasn’t them who bought the booze for their brother the night he died.

Authorities determined Nick Bisignano got drunk on alcohol a man bought for another kid, a kid who took the alcohol to a party Nick attended before getting drunk and then getting behind the wheel. Bisignano says speaking out and calling for tougher laws for adults who sell booze to kids is part of his grieving process.
“It’s with us daily. It isn’t a matter of whether we’re reminded by the media that might show it on any given evening or a speech by the governor today. It’s something that we live pretty much throughout our day,” Bisignano says. “It’s just something that you deal with and hopefully, you can do something in a positive way (rather) than let it affect you in a negative way.”

The Bisignanos started a foundation and periodically buy billboards to remind Des Moines-area kids not to drink and drive. Bisignano believes the billboards have sparked conversations between parents and teens, and a serious discussion about drinking and the consequences whether it be death or being declared ineligible to participate in school activities if you’re a kid caught drinking.