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County coalition against distracted driving launches billboard campaign



For more than a year a countywide task force trying to combat the problem of pedestrians and bicyclists killed by distracted drivers has looked for ways to

Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane helps unveil a billboard and bumper sticker campaign aimed at protecting pedestrians and bicyclists from distracted drivers, at Petaluma Valley Hospital, in Petaluma on Monday, March 25, 2013. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/ PD)

Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane helps unveil a billboard and bumper sticker campaign aimed at protecting pedestrians and bicyclists from distracted drivers, at Petaluma Valley Hospital, in Petaluma on Monday, March 25, 2013. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/ PD)

broadcast its message.

Its latest effort can be seen along Highway 101 south of Petaluma on a billboard that went up March 18 with the message: Park the phone while you drive.

The Sonoma County Safe Streets Coalition has gotten free bumper stickers, bus, radio and newspaper ads and now the billboard donated for two months by St. Joseph Health.

The goal is to try and get drivers, walkers and riders to pay more attention and reduce the number of deaths and injuries.

About 30 people, most of them coalition members, gathered Monday morning at Petaluma Valley Hospital, a St. Joseph Health facility. They marked what Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane called a productive partnership between public and private agencies, businesses and nonprofits in the publicity effort.

“It’s a day to celebrate … born out of tragedy,” Zane said.

She organized the coalition in the fall of 2011 after a series of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths linked to distracted driving.

Two of those victims were Calli Murray and Christopher “Buddy” Rowe — young children hit and killed while in crosswalks with family members.

Murray, 2, was hit by a Sonoma State University student who was texting as she drove. A hit-and-run driver hit Rowe, 4. Both drivers were arrested and convicted.

The coalition first met a month after the boy’s death.

“We needed to get together and share what we’re doing around the county, begin working more collectively,” Zane said.

Members include several law enforcement agencies, county public health and public works officials, and members of nonprofits including the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition and Safe Routes to School.

“It has made a difference on bringing more public attention to bicycle and pedestrian safety efforts,” said Petaluma police Lt. Tim Lyons. “Instead of us in the south county trying to get the word out about texting or bike and pedestrian safety we are working county-wide to improve safety.”

The safety message needs repeating, frequently, said Dr. Brian Schmidt, medical director of trauma services at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, also a St. Joseph Health hospital. Every day, 11 teens die in the United States from distracted driving, Schmidt said.

“People are just addicted to being on their phones,” said Schmidt.

The Sonoma County Safe Streets Coalition meets every two months at the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. The biggest roadblock has been how to accomplish anything without any money to spend.

Their work-around has included seeking donations, grant money and cheap projects, including having public works crews stencil the word “LOOK” in large letters at numerous crosswalks.

“We’ve put together a campaign … well over $100,000 worth and we virtually haven’t spent one tax dollar,” said Zane.

The crashes continue. Petaluma’s Lyons said the numbers involving distracted driver crashes continue to increase in the southern city. As a result, it is now standard procedure for officers investigating a crash to check a driver’s cellphone records to see if they were talking on it at the time.

“It’s a long haul,” said Zane. “Hopefully a year from now we’ll see less incidents.”

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi. rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.

11 Responses to “County coalition against distracted driving launches billboard campaign”

  1. Kate says:

    Tailgaiting is indeed a dangerous practice. I suggest, if you are being tailgaited, MOVE THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY AND STOP IMPEDING THE FLOW OF TRAFFIC!!!!!

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  2. Small Observation says:

    Anthony Angry, this is the article about a billboard and distracted drivers. The bicycle article is here: http://www.watchsonomacounty.com/2013/03/county/sonoma-county-board-of-supervisors-adopts-ordinance-assisting-cyclists-pedestrians/ Perhaps you were a bit distracted by your anger?

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  3. Elephant says:

    Kathy Robler – Zaney isn’t a progressive. The root word is progress, after all. She is like a certain member of the Petaluma City council was once described – a windsock. She rides the fence and leans in whatever direction the wind is blowing hardest.

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  4. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Kathy Roblar, nothing about Zane is really progressive or she would be kinder to rank and file workers and give up more of her salary and managements. Anyone see how much the CAO (that little tiny blip in the PD) is making per year? THREE MONTHS OF DISCRETIONARY LEAVE WHICH SHE CAN PROBABLY BUY BACK plus regular leave time but she can “FLEX” her time so she doesn’t take any of it. How very nice for her.

    Zane likes to keep her face in front of the public. She likes the attention. Notice that Rabbitt keeps his head down but is first in line in taking away rank and file benefits and income. No “parity” for the rank and file.

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  5. Amused says:

    Uh, won’t the billboard cause drivers to be DISTRACTED so they avert their eyes from the highway?

    Why, yes.

    DOH !

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  6. Anthony Angry says:

    @Mr. Oblivious

    Grow up. You and your wife were not in any danger from the cyclist and to suggest so is absurd. If the driver in the truck was making an unsafe passing maneuver, it was the motor vehicle driver that was endangering you and the other road users. Also, your attempt to dehumanize the cyclist by repeatedly referring to him/her as “Levi” is childish and only working on other selfish jerks like yourself. Lastly, a Sunday drive? Really? Get a hobby Leave it to Beaver, you’re polluting the the planet.

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  7. Kathy Robler says:

    Zaney at it again. This progressive Board of Supervisors member can find a heart tugging issue with almost any cause. She does seem to have a very difficult time concentration on what is important for this county.

    Instead of dealing with the hard issues facing the county like the economy, employment development, the county budget she wonders off into the weeds on social issues from whence she came as a former social worker.

    She is a lost cause for dealing with real problems as most progressive are.

    One wishes she would find focus on something that improve the lot of most of the residents of the county instead of looking for headlines.

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  8. Elephant says:

    An extremely distracting billboard touting that we should ignore our phones while driving… because it’s distracting. Honorable idea. Horrendous execution.

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  9. Over Easy says:

    The problem is not only with pedestrians and cyclists it is with other cars too!

    If I can see dozens of drivers texting, talking with the phone in their hand, and putting on make up, WHY cant the cops?

    START passing out tickets for crying out loud! Write them up as reckless driving and let the Judges and DA do their jobs.

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  10. The Answer says:

    Drivers who tailgate, speed, change lanes irratically are a bigger problem than people who talk on their cell phones or teenagers texting. They are a small minority compared to idiots driving on 101 who indanger lives by their carelessness every day and night.

    Yes Dorothy there are too many drivers out there who don’t care or don’t know how to drive. Cops hiding with their radar guns haven’t had an impact except to put fines into the coffers of the state and county.

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