City initiative combats distracted driving

City employees banned from texting, using cellphone while driving city vehicles

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville is taking another step to crack down on texting and driving.

Mayor Alvin Brown announced Friday he is going to make it mandatory that city employees not text or use a cellphone -- even with a hands-free device -- while operating a city vehicle.

"If you're driving a city vehicle, you should not text and drive," Brown said. "If you're driving a city vehicle, we don't want you on the phone. You not only have to have a policy, but you have to educate them. You have to train them."

The move, backed by safety advocates from around Jacksonville, is designed to curb distracted driving and help keep drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists safer.

Brown made the announcement in front of City Hall, urging others to take the pledge of no texting and driving.

As of January, 44 states, including Florida, have banned text messaging for all drivers. Even though there is already a state law against it, the mayor said the Legislature needs to do more, including banning the use of hands-free devices, as well.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2013 alone, 3,154 people were killed and approximately 424,000 were injured across the country in crashes involving distracted drivers.

Distracted driving includes any activity that diverts a driver's attention away from operating a vehicle, including texting, using a mobile phone, eating, drinking, talking, grooming, reading, using navigation systems, watching videos or adjusting audio devices.

Experts say drivers using mobile phones increase the risk of a crash by four times, the same risk as driving with an illegal blood-alcohol level. According to information provided by Brown's office, texting while driving increases a driver's crash risk by 23 times.

A 2012 NHTSA study found an estimated 660,000 drivers use mobile devices at any given moment during the day -- and that number continues to rise. 

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.