GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Phones are generally a positive to civilization. People have never had more access to information or been in constant communication with their families and friends than right now.
Social media connects people to the culture, and apps help people with services such as ridesharing, bank transfers and food delivery.
A downside to phones is distracted driving, said Clay County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Chris Padgett. The sheriff’s office started promoting its “3D” campaign to prevent distracted driving last fall through enforcement and education.
The sheriff's office released a list of its most 10 most dangerous intersections in the county for crashes in January. The Orange Park area is predictably first with six intersections on the list – Blanding Boulevard and Wells Road, Kingsley Avenue and Professional Center Drive, Blanding Boulevard and Filmore Street, Orange Park Northway and Wells Road and the Orange Park Mall’s other entrance.
Each of the county’s populated areas has an intersection on the list. For Fleming Island, it’s County Road 220 and U.S. Highway 17. Oakleaf has two: Oakleaf Plantation Parkway and Drysdale Drive, and Oakleaf Plantation Parkway and Eagle Landing Parkway. County Road 219 and Gustafson Road in Keystone Heights and County Road 215 and Juniper Avenue in Middleburg were also on the list.
“We felt like the public needed to start seeing where these priority intersections are for traffic crashes,” Padgett said.
According to the state Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles annual report, in 2017, there were 2,961 crashes in Clay County that resulted in 1,804 injuries and 21 deaths. There were 33 fatalities in 2015 and 26 in 2016, the report said.
Not all crashes are due to distracted driving, Padgett said, and he’s quick to specify the difference between an accident, for example, a busted axle that causes a car to slam into another, and a crash with human error involved.
Currently distracted driving is a secondary offense, meaning a deputy cannot pull over someone if the driver appears to be proceeding normally.
“Now let’s say while you’re looking at your device, you swerve to the right and into a bike lane. Now, we can pull you over,” Padgett said. “We can cite you for a failure to maintain a single lane and distracted driving, but distracted driving alone is not enough for us to take you into temporary custody with a traffic stop.”
He said Sheriff Darryl Daniels spoke before a state Senate committee last week to lobby for distracted driving as a primary offense. CCSO gave out just under 1,000 citations in January and 500 written warnings.
Padgett said distracted driving needs tangible consequences.
“We’re simply trying to deter that behavior,” Padgett said.