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City targets distracted drivers

'Drive with Care' effort comes after 600 were ticketed last year in La Cañada for cell-phone use.

January 28, 2011|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com
(Joe Piasecki/Valley…)

La Cañada Flintridge officials are renewing calls for increased driver-safety awareness with a campaign in February to spread the message through schools, churches and businesses.

Signs warning drivers to "Be Aware, Drive with Care" were placed throughout the La Cañada Flintridge late last year, developing a theme that members of an informal city traffic-safety committee will expand on using banners, yard signs and window stickers of similar design.

City traffic statistics in 2010, meanwhile, offer conflicting indicators of just how seriously local drivers are considering safer practices behind the wheel.

The 133 traffic collisions documented in the city during the first 11 months of last year represented a significant drop from the 169 recorded over the same period last year and the 202 logged January through November 2008 — reductions that officials credit to decreased speeds and traffic volumes.

But at the same time, Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies issued tickets in 2010 to more than 600 La Cañada drivers who were illegally talking on, or texting from, cell phones while on the roadway, said Sheriff's Sgt. Mark Slater.

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"When I drive around in my own car, I see it all the time. Women with long hair try to hide the phone up under their hair … but how many people [otherwise] drive with their hands up under their hair and their mouths moving?" said Slater.

And it appears that adult drivers — not teens — are the ones who seem to be missing the message, with 584 of those tickets going to adults for making illegal calls. Fourteen adults were cited for texting, while just six minors were caught doing either, according to Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station records.

"Cell phones and texting are a constant temptation for all age groups today, and it points out the need to reinforce safe-driving awareness, which I think the 'Drive with Care' effort is trying to do in a positive way. It's not just directed at young people, it's directed at all of us," said Councilman Stephen Del Guercio, who called for formation of a city driver-safety committee as mayor in 2008.

While law enforcement agencies have difficulty determining how often cell-phone use plays a role in non-injury collisions where witnesses are not present, Slater said the driver who last month plowed into the city welcome sign on Verdugo Boulevard admitted to texting while driving before losing control.

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