Text messaging while driving in Lee County (Fla.) Public Schools is prohibited. It is the first district in Florida— and possibly the nation—to keep its policies caught up with the technology.
In March 2010, the Lee County Board of Education amended the district vehicle policy to prohibit employees from text messaging while driving a district vehicle or while driving a personally-owned vehicle on district business. The district has 12,000 employees and a fleet of over 650 school buses.
Text messaging, as defined by the district, is any form of entering data into a handheld electronic device. The National Safety Council estimated in January that at least 1.6 million crashes nationwide are caused each year by drivers using cell phones and texting.
"We wanted to enhance our policies and bring them into the 21st century," says Joseph Donzelli, the director of communications for Lee County Public Schools. "We had already been telling our employees not to be distracted while driving, but this puts it in black and white. It has some teeth and leaves no room for ambiguity."
Donzelli recognizes that enforcing this policy will primarily rely on observations from residents and other district personnel. He emphasizes, however, that this is not meant to be a "gotcha" policy to get employees in trouble, but rather a means of putting the district leaders' expectations into writing.
When discussions about this began last January, Lee County officials began investigating what other districts and government agencies had in place for best-driving practices among employees.
After finding no other policy to follow, Lee County created its own and hopes to serve as a model for other districts across Florida and the nation.