By Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean
The City Council and I are extremely concerned about the amount of distracted driving that is occurring. Therefore, we have initiated a “Heads Up” traffic safety campaign. Designed to educate both drivers and pedestrians about dangerous habits that lead to accidents on our roadways, Heads Up is also an effective tool that parents can use to have a discussion with your teens and younger children on how to be safe when driving or crossing the street.
The Heads Up initiative is already having a positive impact on our community. From January through October 2017, pedestrian-involved incidents went down 55 percent compared to the numbers from 2016 and Santa Clarita saw zero fatal pedestrian collisions.
When the City Council and the City’s Traffic Safety Committee introduced Heads Up last year, the stated goal was to see a five percent reduction in the overall number of collisions in Santa Clarita by 2018. The committee continues to compile data on accidents and can report that the City had a 9 percent decline in collisions from January through October when compared to 2016.
The City continues to strive to improve safety on our roads and we want to remind residents of important driving and pedestrian safety tips that will further benefit the community.
Taking your eyes off the road is just one factor that contributes to accidents. A common reason this happens is because we face nearly limitless distractions every time we get behind the wheel. The most common culprit of distraction is cell phones. According to the most recent California Traffic Safety Survey, nearly 60 percent of drivers say they have been hit or nearly hit by a driver talking or texting on his or her phone. However, adjusting the radio, eating, drinking, talking to passengers or fixing your hair can all take your attention away from where it should be…on the road in front of you. It is up to each and every one of us to disconnect from our distractions so we can focus on arriving safely at our destination.
For drivers, this means keeping the radio at a reasonable volume and ensuring that electronic devices are kept out of reach. Using your cellphone while you are driving is against the law in California, and is punishable by hundreds of dollars in fines. The best choice is to wait to use your phone until after you’ve gotten out of your car – the fine and the potential for an accident that can cause injuries or death are simply not worth it.
Research shows that pedestrian injuries related to cell phone use are on the rise. A recent study conducted by researchers connected to Ohio State University shows that pedestrian cell phone-related injuries have more than doubled since 2005. Pedestrians should be cautious of the technology they use when walking on sidewalks and crossing streets. Especially for those that check social media on their phone or like to listen to music, it is important to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Even when you are waiting your turn at a stoplight, you should make sure that drivers see you and are yielding to let you safely cross.
The City’s Heads Up Campaign brings positive news for drivers and pedestrians in Santa Clarita, but we cannot stop now. I encourage you all to exercise patience and caution so that we can continue to reduce the number of collisions in our City. Remember, one second of distraction can cost someone a lifetime.
Please visit our Heads Up website at santa-clarita.com/HeadsUp to read our traffic safety plan and get more tips on how you and your loved ones can do your part to increase safety in Santa Clarita.
Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.