All the kids are right: campaign to combat distracted driving coming to schools

By Gary Scott on March 2, 2016 at 8:31am

A coalition including the City of Jacksonville is teaming up to encourage students to campaign against distracted driving.

The city will declare the month of April “Distracted Driving Awareness Month” and held a meeting yesterday at the Municipal Building. It included Mayor Andy Ezard, the city’s emergency services coordinator, a representative from the motorcycle advocacy group Tri-County ABATE, and several high school students and administrators, among others.

Morgan County Deputy Coroner Marcy Patterson explains the purpose of the meeting.

“A group of community leaders got together and decided that we needed to address the distracted drivers in our community. We had a couple fatal accidents in the past year, and we just as a group decided we should take a look at what was going on. We requested this meeting and got together with a bunch of kids from the schools, and thought they could help us get the message out to the community that, during the month of April, we’re all going to put our phones in the backseat and not text, and not drink coffee, and not play with our navigators, or any of the things that people do that cause them to be distracted,” she says.

The plan is to have people pledge by wearing multi-colored thumb rings.

Patterson notes it’s important for young people to be involved in this campaign.

“Someone originally said, ‘Well, the kids are the problem.’ And the adults in the room- me, and Mayor Ezard and the chief of police- looked at each other and realized they’re no bigger problems than we are,” says Patterson.

“So, we thought we could get the kids to help us to spread the message to the adults. So, the kids are on board with this, they’re going to be able to tell the adults, ‘Hey, do as I say,’ because that’s what we want- to get the adults to put down their phones and do what they’re telling their kids to do, which is, don’t be distracted when you’re driving,” she adds.

Jacksonville Police Chief Tony Grootens said the police department will coordinate distracted driving prevention activities during the April campaign.

Lincoln Land Community College is also involved.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2013, over 3,100 people were killed, and 424,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.