It began when Juanita Duckett’s good friend Hennie was banged up in a car accident.
Hennie Sullivan was sitting in a parked car, after a friend dropped her off in front of her West Oak Lane home, when another car slammed into theirs. On the sidewalk, car metal twisted, Sullivan and her friend shaken and bruised, the driver admitted: “I didn’t even see you.” “Well, it’s hard to see since you were on the phone,” a neighbor had yelled.
Months later, Duckett experienced a near hit. A car dipped into her lane, missing hers by inches. Duckett blames the scary event on one thing: the driver was on the phone.
It’s a reckless behavior – texting and talking while driving – that Duckett says she sees day in and day out. And she’s sick of it.
“It’s very frustrating,” explains Duckett, 47, a former engineer at Lockheed Martin. “And it even angers me because you have someone who is trying to be convenient and send a message, but they’re doing it in the place of possibly taking someone’s life, and the comparison, it’s not even close.”
Duckett and Sullivan recently founded the “Safe Text Crusade" to raise awareness; encourage drivers to use hands-free devices (some of which now include texting); and rally for tougher enforcement.
Several states have banned texting while driving; Pennsylvania has not, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. But since Philadelphia passed its own law in December, which bans texting and talking without a hands-free device while driving, more than 9,000 drivers have gotten tickets, says a police spokesperson.
To ratchet up enforcement, Duckett and her group will rally at noon tomorrow near one of the city’s most well travelled intersections, Broad and Olney. Wearing “Do You Practice Safe Text?” t-shirts, they'll be taking pictures of those caught in the act, as well as their license plates. Duckett says she has to check the laws, but her plan is to upload the pictures on her organization’s website.
They'll later head to Cottman Avenue and Roosevelt Blvd. On Sunday afternoon, they’ll start again at Broad and Cecil B. Moore, then make their way to Broad and South Streets.
“Just by being there,” Duckett says of the planned rallies, “we’re hoping people realize this is a real problem.”