FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – In 2020, Flagler County’s crashes dropped. But crashes with injuries and fatalities more than doubled.
Sheriff Rick Staly blamed distracted driving for the dramatic increase. He said the no-texting-and-driving law that News 6 helped pass in 2019 isn’t making drivers put down their phones.
“It would certainly seem like that when you see everybody going down the road with a phone,” Staly said. “The poster child of what you’re not supposed to do is the female driver that ran over [Volusia County] Sheriff Chitwood on a bicycle.”
So Staly decided to address what he called “the root cause” of traffic crashes - distracted driving. He rolled out Operation T.I.D.E.S. (Texting while driving, Impaired driving, driving while Distracted or Exhausted, and Speeding).
“We can either just take fatalities and traffic crashes with injuries and say well there’s nothing we can do, or we can focus and try and have an impact,” Staly said.
Patrol deputies are now focusing their attention on texting and driving and handing out tickets when they see it, especially in school zones and construction zones where it’s illegal to just hold a phone.
Deputy Greg Nunziato said he sees distracted driving everywhere.
“It’s all day every day,” Nunziato said. “Whatever it is that they’re distracted by in their car is causing the majority of our crashes, especially in congested areas where you see some of the rear-end collisions because people are so busy on their phones.”
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office handed out the second most texting and driving tickets in 2020, behind Orange County.
Several Central Florida counties issued tickets in the single digits, according to the 2020 Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle report.
2020 Total Citations Issued Statewide: 3,410
Florida Highway Patrol: 1,090
Orange County Sheriff’s Office: 114
Flagler County Sheriff’s Office: 64
Volusia County Sheriff’s Office: 59
Seminole County Sheriff’s Office: 18
Sumter County Sheriff’s Office: 9
Lake County Sheriff’s Office: 6
Brevard County Sheriff’s Office: 4
Marion County Sheriff’s Office: 4
Orlando Police: 12
Melbourne Police: 12
Daytona Beach Police: 3
UCF Police: 2