Since our city’s incorporation in 1987, the City Council has placed great importance on educating the community about safety on city streets. Distracted driving continues to be one of the major issues. We have created several campaigns to shed the light on how to combat distractions behind the wheel, such as using cell phones, texting, playing the radio too loudly and even being distracted by other passengers.
Through our partnership with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, we’ve created programs including “Every 15 Minutes” and “Drive Focus Live” in an effort to encourage safe driving practices and minimize traffic collisions. The newest program in partnership with our local Sheriff’s Station, “Heads Up!” is a campaign designed to combat unsafe behaviors in drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
My family moved to Santa Clarita in 1973. Our roads were obviously much different back then and with the growth of Santa Clarita’s population and additional roads, there was a lot of work that had to be completed. Becoming a city in 1987 gave us the opportunity to make changes for much-needed traffic safety. There have been vital connections made, new streets added and bridges built. Our traffic engineers continuously tap the newest technology to allow for the development of our Intelligent Transportation System.
The City Council has approved safety enhancements such as protected left turn lanes, pedestrian blank-out signs for safer crossing and more. In addition, our partners at the SCV Sheriff’s Station are working day in and day out to put a stop to unsafe driving. All this hard work and planning paid off with a significant decrease in the number of collisions on our city streets in 2017 and 2018, with ZERO pedestrian or cyclist fatalities in those years.
Sadly, 2019 is not off to a safe start. Earlier this month a cyclist and a pedestrian lost their lives within days of each other, in accidents just blocks from each other. These tragedies hit me hard. I feel a personal responsibility to keep all of you safe as you travel throughout our city. What is even more upsetting is that it seems these accidents could have been prevented. Witnesses in both situations say the victims stepped or rode into oncoming traffic without checking for approaching vehicles.
Although safe driving is the responsibility of drivers of all ages, the Public Safety Announcement portion of this campaign is specifically targeted to teen drivers. Statistics show that more than 25 percent of all fatal accidents are caused by distracted driving. That number climbs even higher for new drivers, with distracted driving causing 58 percent of car crashes involving teens. These young drivers are exposed to nearly limitless distractions when going to and from their destinations. These distractions come in many forms including chatting with other passengers, looking for their favorite song on the radio or even grabbing something to eat. But the most common distraction is cell phones. I realize that staying connected is important, but risking your life, or the life of someone else, is simply not worth it. I encourage all of you to set a good example by putting the phone down anytime you get behind the wheel.
While the city greatly emphasizes the importance of traffic safety education, there are also other enhancements that contribute to safer roadways. Our city staff works hard to improve our existing infrastructure, including the recently widened Newhall Ranch Road Bridge, which now offers one extra lane of travel in each direction, plus trail connectivity and protected bike lanes for our cyclists. Additional enhancements are now nearing completion at the Sierra Highway/Golden Valley Pedestrian Bridge, which makes it safer for students and others who regularly travel through that area.
These infrastructure improvements and campaigns didn’t happen by accident – they were made possible by the city’s Traffic Safety Team: a task force comprised of individuals from the Sheriff’s Department, and the City’s Communications, Traffic and Engineering Divisions. The team focuses on the Three E’s – engineering, enforcement and education. Whether it’s engineering protected bicycle lanes, adding DUI saturation patrols to enhance enforcement operations, or holding a Heads Up Teen Video Contest designed to educate youth; the city continues its efforts to improve our traffic safety from every angle.
Of course, these programs and enhancements are just a smaller piece of the bigger picture. In order for these programs to work, the city needs you to act! I urge you to make responsible decisions when using our city roads and be a “heads up” driver, pedestrian or cyclist.
The city’s Heads Up campaign has made great strides in our traffic safety efforts, but there is still more work to be done. It is up to each of us to be safety-minded individuals, in order to protect our family-oriented community. For more tips and statistics related to traffic safety in Santa Clarita, please visit our Heads Up website at santa-clarita.com/HeadsUp.
Mayor Marsha McLean is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at [email protected]