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Report: Distracted drivers lack focus near local schools

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Posted: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 12:00 am

California drivers’ focus near schools, including those in San Joaquin County, has significant room for improvement, according to an annual observational study conducted recently across the state. Students monitoring nearly 70 intersections at high schools in 24 California counties for one hour last Tuesday recorded more than 7,000 cases of distracted driving.

In San Joaquin County, they found 110 distractions, compared to 193 in Orange County and 104 in Tulare County. Details on actual sites were not provided.

Student participants in this educational Roadwatch — funded by The Allstate Foundation and administered by the California Friday Night Live Partnership — observed an hourly average of approximately 100 cases of distracted driving per intersection. That is consistent with the average recorded in the past two Roadwatch studies. Traffic volume is not factored.

Driven by a desire to improve traffic safety in their neighborhoods and to use the research for future safe driving campaigns locally, students compiled these startling statistics from among the vehicles they observed with both attentive and distracted drivers. Here are the top distractions they noted:

  • Cellphone use in-hand: 2,139 (or 31 per hour/site)
  • Eating or drinking: 2,053 (or 30 per hour/site)
  • Personal grooming: 856 (or 12 per hour/site)
  • Smoking: 440 (or six per hour/site)
  • Extreme volume on radio: 402 (or six per hour/site)
  • Wearing headphones: 314 (or four per hour/site)
  • Pet on driver’s lap: 306 (or four per hour/site)
  • Reading: 90 (one per hour/site)

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.

In 2011, the first year of this Roadwatch, more than 6,700 instances of distractions were recorded at 62 sites near California schools. In 2012, more than 7,000 distractions were recorded at 67 sites.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving accounted for one of every 10 U.S. traffic fatalities in 2010. In 2009, CHP reported 116 traffic fatalities caused by distracted driving in California.

News-Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

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