SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - New numbers out of Santa Cruz County show distracted driving is happening at an alarming rate and it’s not just on highways or well-traveled streets but also outside of schools, according to a new report from a county group called Friday Night Live.
In October, the group sent volunteers and staff members to four different schools, including Westlake and Gault Elementary as well as Lakeview Middle and Soquel High. According to the report released Monday, in just one hour, they spotted 236 cases of distracted driving, that’s an average of 78.6 instances recorded per location. It isn’t just cell phones either, it can be other passengers, food or even pets, according to the report.
“The thing that is my pet peeve is when people drive with a dog on their lap and their dog’s head is sticking out the window,” said Kathy Haber, who spoke with KION before picking up her grandson at Westlake Elementary. “I don’t even know how they can turn the steering wheel.”
Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills says the numbers from the report are alarming, “especially when you are dropping off children at these schools," said Mills. "What is our most precious thing we have available to us in a community? That’s our children”
To decrease the crime, Mills says they've increased patrols at area schools, especially during the pickup and drop off times. Mills says they’ve already issued hundreds of tickets.
“Parent and drivers beware. I have motor officers assigned to the school and their job is to look for people distracted driving or speeding through school zones and they are issuing a lot of tickets,” added Mills.
The department is also increasing education about the dangers of distracted driving through their Street Smarts Campaign, it is a city program aimed at reducing the number of traffic-related crashes and injuries.
Friday Night Live also says the distracted driving numbers are just as alarming throughout California. Last month, volunteers surveyed 88 schools in 30 counties. They saw more than 10,000 cases of distracted driving in just one hour.