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Teens Stake Out Intersections, Find 'Startling' Levels of Distracted Driving

More than 150 instances clocked in a single hour at the intersection of Elk Grove Blvd and Elk Grove Florin Road

How many times have you peeked at a cell phone text while driving, or taken a call before your headset was securely in place? Reporters are notorious offenders.

One conversation with senior Katrina Ranchhod, however, might shame some of us into changing our ways.

Ranchhod lost a childhood friend in a distracted driving accident.

"He passed away because his friends were messing around in the car," she said. "We really miss him and it was really hard for our school."

That's partly what inspired Ranchhod to join teens across Sacramento County in a campaign to document distracted driving at local intersections and encourage their peers to keep their attention on the road.

Ranchhod and other members of the EGHS chapter of teen safety group Friday Night Live logged 169 instances of distracted driving in just one hour last fall while stationed at the corner of Elk Grove Blvd and Elk Grove Florin Road. Last week, they conducted a pledge drive asking fellow students to commit to ditching the distractions.

"We saw girls putting mascara on while they were driving. It was amazing how much people were distracted," said Jessica Rosales, also an EGHS senior.

The survey—cosponsored by the Sacramento County Office of Education and the Allstate Foundation—took place during school hours, and many of the distracted drivers were adults, Rosales said. Students documented 620 incidents at five different intersections countywide—a number the County Office of Education called 'startling.'

In Elk Grove, 33 drivers were eating at the wheel, and another 28 were texting, students said. Smaller numbers were reading, smoking and playing with pets.

Texting and talking on a non-hands-free cellphone while driving are illegal in California. Not all of the other activities are specifically illegal, but they could result in a citation if police determine they compromise safety, Elk Grove Police Department spokesperson Christopher Trim said in a recent post on Elk Grove Online.

An netted 123 citations related to distracted driving.

At a press conference Tuesday to promote the students' campaign, department community service officer Misty Dailey said distracted driving deaths have fallen by half statewide over the past three years.

She gave some safety tips: "Don't even put your phone on silent while you're driving; turn it off. When you're in a car with a driver, get that phone out of their hands. Say, 'What do you want me to say? I'll text it.' "

"When somebody's driving, don't text them. The second they look down, the cement truck in front of them has stopped. I don't want anyone having that on their heart."

Students said they had gathered about 300 signatures on the Elk Grove High School pledge.

Did their fellow students take it seriously?

"They may not be taking it that seriously at that point but maybe when they're texting, they'll think about it," said Rosales.

"We have to get them thinking," added Ranchhod. "That's where you have to start."

Julie March 23, 2012 at 03:23 PM
If law enforecement and the public were serious about the issue of people not using their cell phones while driving, the offenders cell phone would be confiscated, impounded for at least 24 hours, and the owner could pay a hefty fine to retrieve it. A person cannot talk on their cell phone while driving if they do not have a phone availalble. Kudos to these high school students who recognize the danger and have taken steps to educate their peers.
Tom Brown March 23, 2012 at 03:56 PM
These offenders likely break other laws too, such as unpaid tickets, lapsed insurance etc. and could be caught as a result of enforcement of the distracted driving laws. This example would go a long ways toward discouraging others from being irresponsible.
Al D. March 23, 2012 at 06:22 PM
I agree distracte driving should be enforced by EGPD for all drivers. I also think they should start with themselves. I often see EGPD talking on non-hand free cell phones, not using turn signals, distracted by something while someone goes through an intersection late, doesn't signal etc. right in front of them. The way to reduce death, injury and property damage is to strictly enforce all of the rules all of the time. And law enforcement should be setting the example, not getting passes.
Tom Brown March 23, 2012 at 08:42 PM
See subsection D regarding EGPD use of cellphones while driving. http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc23123.htm
Bwood March 24, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Let's not start making the cops out as the bad guys here, that's not what this thread is about.

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