This week, Orange County youth involved in the Friday Night Live and Club Live programs took part in a statewide Roadwatch campaign to document distracted driving in their communities.
And they found plenty to document.
In all, the local students observed more than 1,400 examples, including the use of hand-held devices, eating, drinking, personal grooming, animals on drivers’ laps, reaching for items and reading.
“The most interesting thing that I saw was a student texting, listening to music with their earbuds and driving all at once,” said one Bolsa Grande High School student. Another student said he was surprised to see a driver eating instant noodles. He said he got involved in the project because “distracted driving is extremely dangerous, and I want to make the road safe for everyone.”
The observational study was conducted near seven schools and one community church during a one-hour stretch on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 13. Statewide, more than 100 FNL and Club Live chapters participated.
In Orange County, the FNL and Club Live youth and advisors participating were from Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove, Brookhurst Junior High School in Anaheim, Yorba Middle School in Orange, Fountain Valley High School, Gilbert High in Anaheim, Magnolia High in Anaheim, the Santiago de Compostela Youth Ministry in Lake Forest and Santiago High School in Garden Grove.
As we said above, we’re talking about more than just cellphone use. In fact, distracted driving is categorized by the California Highway Patrol as a range of activities that impacts a driver’s visual, auditory, physical or cognitive abilities while driving.
That said, preliminary results show the most common distraction observed in Orange County was use of a hand-held device. Students documented 408 instances, followed by eating and drinking (330) and personal grooming (222).
The California Friday Night Live Partnership and The Allstate Foundation started its Roadwatch campaign about five years ago to stress the importance of distraction-free driving.
“Reducing distractions behind the wheel is something we all can do, “ said Phil Telgenhoff, field senior vice president for the Allstate Insurance Company. “It costs nothing and its savings are enormous. When we choose to drive more safely, we improve the safety of everyone on the road at the same time.”
OCDE Program Specialist Elke Petras said the FNL and Club chapter members will use their field data to advocate for positive changes in their schools and communities.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,154 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2013 alone. This represents a 6.7 percent decrease in the number of fatalities recorded in 2012, though the number of injuries increased from 421,000 to 424,000.