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Tulare County drivers more distracted than average California resident

Tulare County drivers more distracted than average California resident

Visalia-based California Friday Night Live Partnership surveys distracted driving in front of schools

@TheSunGazette

VISALIA – Tulare County schools are among the most unsafe in California because of the people driving past them. Drivers distracted by phones, passengers, pets, food and much more drove past California schools earlier this month, visibly unfocused on what should be their only task behind the wheel – responsible, safe driving. Through the annual Roadwatch survey, Friday Night Live (FNL) members across California witnessed first-hand the reality that distracted driving remains a prevalent threat to other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.

On Oct. 10, Friday Night Live members surveyed 88 intersections near high schools and middle schools in 30 counties across California and observed 10,252 cases of distracted driving in just one hour’s time, an average of 116.5 instances per intersection surveyed. That means that at any given minute between 7 and 8 a.m., there were at least 171 distracted drivers in California. Furthermore, these observations occurred in front of schools, at a time when it is most likely to be filled with pedestrians, new drivers and cyclists.

More than just cellphone use, distracted driving is categorized by California Highway Patrol as a range of activities that impact a driver’s visual, auditory, physical or cognitive abilities when driving.

Driven by a desire to improve traffic safety in their local communities and empowered by a grant from The Allstate Foundation through the California Friday Night Live Partnership (CFNLP) headquartered in Tulare County, students compiled startling statistics from among thousands of vehicles they observed with both attentive and distracted drivers.  Distractions during this learning-focused Roadwatch ranged from the all-too-typical hand-held use of a cellphone to the less-often-observed kissing, eating with utensils and using a tablet. Each distraction observed is highly dangerous and 100% avoidable. The top distractions while driving observed were:

  • Use of hand-held device: 3,224 total, 37 per intersection average 1%
  • Eating or drinking: 2,313 total, 27 per intersection average 1%
  • Personal grooming: 1,253 total, 14 per intersection average 1%
  • Reaching for an item: 1,138 total, 13 per intersection average 1%

These results show an increase in distracted driving behaviors of over 7.5% since 2016 when 12,852 instances were recorded at 119 intersections during Roadwatch.

“Reducing distractions behind the wheel is something we all can do — it costs nothing and its savings are enormous,” said Freddy Santos, Allstate’s senior corporate relations manager for California. “When we choose to drive safer, we improve the safety of everyone on the road at the same time.”

In Tulare County, distracted drivers are much more prevalent than the rest of the state. Four sites were surveyed in Tulare County in each of the three cities that make up the most densely populated areas in Visalia, Tulare and Porterville. The number of people using a hand-held device while driving past a school was 8% compared with a state average of just 1%.

In California, a first citation for texting and driving is $162. Not only will it cost you monetarily, according to the California Highway Patrol, a driver is 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision if they text while driving.

Year after year, Roadwatch proves to be a vital tool for not only raising awareness about the issue of distracted driving, but also for creating real change in traffic safety throughout California. Roadwatch is also a great platform for preparing young drivers and FNL leaders to raise awareness around National Teen Driver Safety Week, which was held Oct. 15-21.

“Engaging California’s young people in this way encourages their positive and healthy development and empowers them to become active leaders,” says Jim Kooler, CFNLP administrator. “Programs like our annual Youth Summit and Roadwatch allow California youth to lead their peers in reducing distracted driving collisions.”

Traffic crashes remain the number one killer of young people ages 15-24 in America. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2014, 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. A 2013 study revealed that nearly 70% of California drivers surveyed said they had been hit or nearly hit by a driver who was talking or texting on a cell phone (California Traffic Safety Survey).

Active in 50 counties statewide and based in the Tulare County Office of Education, CFNLP engages young people to become active leaders and resources in their communities. For more information about Friday Night Live, visit www.fridaynightlive.org.

Tulare County Info
Of the more than 1,200 cars observed near Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia, eight drivers were petting or playing with animals, nine were smoking, driving with knees, or using hands while talking, 13 were doing personal grooming, 84 were eating or drinking and 98 were using a hand-held device.

Of the 74 cars students watched near Mission Oak High School in Tulare, three drivers were doing personal grooming, four were eating or drinking and five were using a hand-held device.

Of the 52 cars that drove passed Pleasant View Elementary in Porterville, three were petting or playing with pets, four were doing personal grooming, five were reaching for an item, six were eating or drinking, and 12 were using a hand-held device.

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