Over 10,250 Distractions in 88 Intersections
Drivers distracted by phones, passengers, pets, food and much more drove past California schools on Tuesday morning, November 3 2017 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. 3, FNL 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 7:00 and 8:00 am, there were at least 171 distracted drivers per minute.
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. 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.
In Santa Cruz County alone, FNL members observed more than 236 accounts of distracted driving during their Roadwatch assessment of 4 intersections, for an average of 78.6 instances recorded per location and an average of 1.3 instances of distracted driving per minute. Each year different school sites are observed. This year, observations were made at Soquel High School, Lakeview Middle School, Gault Elementary School and Westlake Elementary School.
Students compiled startling statistics from among thousands of vehicles they observed with both attentive and distracted drivers. Distractions ranged from the hand-held use of a cellphone to 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
- Eating or drinking: 2,313 total, 27 per intersection average
- Personal grooming: 1,253 total, 14 per intersection average
- Reaching for an item: 1,138 total, 13 per intersection average
Distractions Defined: 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.
Distracted Driving Will Cost You: A first citation in California for texting and driving is $162. Not only will it cost you monetarily, but a driver is 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision if they text while driving.
This year, youth from Branciforte Middle School, Mission Hill Middle School, and Soquel High School have focused their projects on reducing distracted and impaired driving, promoting safe pedestrian and bicycle or skateboarding practices, and empowering passengers to speak up when they see something unsafe in an effort to reduce traffic related injuries.
“It’s common sense not to drive distracted,” says Lizbeth Diaz, a sophomore at Soquel High School, “We were surprised to see how many people do it anyway. We want to make the streets safer for everyone.”
Additional driving distractions observed by this year’s Roadwatch participants:
- Extreme volume on radio: 401 total
- Pet on driver’s lap: 361 total
- Smoking or vaping: 369 total
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).
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