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10 News checks which cities ban employees from texting and driving | News

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10 News checks which cities ban employees from texting and driving

SPRING HILL, Florida -- The story of 17-year old Allie Augello of Spring Hill should be enough to stop anyone from texting and driving. In 2008, Allie was heading home from theater rehearsal when she was struck head-on by a 19-year-old who was driving in the opposite direction and had crossed the center line.

Both drivers were killed.

Phone records showed the other driver was texting before the accident.

"I have the same pain today that I did four and a half years ago, and you never get over it," said Allie's dad, Steve Augello. "I go through life everyday knowing that I'm one day closer to seeing Allie."

10 News recently discovered a number of area municipalities don't specifically mention texting under their driving policy for city employees. In other words, in some municipalities, employees driving dump trucks, for example, are not specifically told they can't text and drive.

"Anybody that works for any type of government or city should have a policy not to text and drive. You got to start somewhere," said Augello.

When 10 News recently asked St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster about his city's policy, he was quite clear. "If I don't (have a policy banning texting), it will be (the new policy)," he said in response to a question about the issue.

Follow 10 News Reporter Preston Rudie on twitter @PrestonRudie

Sarasota and Lakeland are two other area municipalities that don't specifically ban city employees from texting and driving. Sarasota's policy says employees can't "operate a city vehicle that would result in property or bodily damage ... due to careless or negligent operation." But an outright ban on texting is never spelled out, and since texting and driving is technically not illegal in the state, some fear that creates a loophole where such policies could be challenged in court.

"The times are changing with regard to behaviors inside our cars, and I think we really do need to take a closer look at it," Sarasota Mayor Suzanne Atwell said.

Lakeland officials added it is probably time to re-examine their driving policy too. "We talked about it a few years ago, even reviewed some other policies from other municipalities. We just felt at the time it would be very hard to enforce," Lakeland Director of Communications Kevin Cook said.

But for City of Tampa employees, there is no gray area. In 2010, the city adopted a policy banning employees from texting while behind the wheel of any city vehicle.

"Each disciplinary situation would depend on the circumstances at the time, but thankfully we've not had to discipline anyone for texting and driving," City Director of Human Resources Kimberly Crum told 10 News.

Allie's parents say they had one simple rule for their daughter when she was driving. "I wanted (the phone) in your purse and if it rang or if you got texts, just ignore it until you got out of the car," he said.

Allie's cell phone was found zipped in her purse at the accident scene.

Augello says their loss is a cautionary tale about the dangers of texting and driving. He just hopes city leaders are listening.


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