Smashed cars highlight texting-and-driving dangers

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Starting Monday and throughout the month, students will see a badly wrecked car outside of their school, place there to bring awareness to the dangers of texting and driving.

Students and anyone driving by will be seeing a smashed car involved in an accident, along with a sign saying, "Stop the texts, stop the wrecks."

The new campaign is being put on by the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters and Fire Fighter Charities.

Firefighters respond to car accidents daily. Now they are focusing on not texting and driving because it's one of the top distractions for drivers.

"A lot of times those wrecks are due to distracted driving, whether it be texting or dialing the phone or anything you have in your car," said Randy Wyse, president of fire union. "We're just trying to bring a little attention of what could happen if you are texting and driving."

Wyse said a driver is 23 percent more likely to be involved in a crash while texting and six times more likely to cause a crash while texting than driving while intoxicated.

He talked about a fatal single-car crash he remembers where the driver was on his phone when he wrecked.

"While I'm sitting there assessing the scene, I can hear a phone down in the car somewhere, someone on the phone going, 'Hey, man, where you at? What are you doing?'" Wyse said.

He said maybe if the driver wasn't distracted on his phone, he could be alive today.

That's why firefighters are displaying a car and sign in front of high schools and other locations over the next few months to draw attention to the problem. Wyse said it's not just drivers' own lives to consider, but everyone else on the road around them.

"Imagine waking up every morning realizing you're the cause of death because of something you were doing in your car," Wyse said. "So sure you may not be the victim, but you could cause an innocent person to become a victim of it."

If life and death isn't enough to make drivers put the phone down, it's about to cost them if they get caught by police.

A new Florida law takes effect on Oct. 1 making it illegal to text and email behind the wheel. It's a secondary offense, meaning a driver would have to be pulled over for another driving violation to get ticketed.

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