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SACRAMENTO, CA--Oct. 17, 2013: California drivers' focus near schools has significant room for improvement according to an annual observational study conducted this week across the state. Students monitoring nearly 70 intersections at high schools in 24 California counties for one hour Tuesday recorded more than 7,000 cases of distracted driving.

Student participants in this educational Roadwatch—funded by The Allstate Foundation and administered by the California Friday Night Live Partnership (CFNLP)—observed a lack of driving focus ranging from talking and texting on the cellphone to eating and drinking, personal grooming, and smoking. These four distracted driving habits topped the list as most prevalent.

This hourly average of approximately 100 cases of distracted driving per intersection is consistent with the average recorded in the past two Roadwatch studies. Traffic volume is not factored.

Driven by a desire to improve traffic safety in their neighborhoods and to use the research for future safe driving campaigns locally, students compiled these startling statistics from among the vehicles they observed with both attentive and distracted drivers. The top distractions while driving are not surprising. Each is avoidable.


Cellphone use in-hand


31 - per hour/site


Eating or drinking


30 - per hour/site


Personal grooming


12 - per hour/site




6 - per hour/site

"Reducing distractions behind the wheel is something we all can do—it costs nothing and its savings are enormous," urges Phil Telgenhoff, Field Vice President of Allstate Insurance Company in California. "When we choose to drive more safely, we improve the safety of everyone on the road at the same time."

Distractions Defined More than just cellphone use, distracted driving is categorized by California Highway Patrol as a range of activities that impact a driver's visual, auditory, physical or cognitive abilities when driving.

CFNLP organizes this Allstate Foundation-funded Roadwatch to raise awareness among adult and teen drivers and all communities about the importance of eliminating distractions while driving.

"Engaging California's young people like this encourages their positive and healthy development and empowers them to become active leaders," says Jim Kooler, Director at CFNLP. "Programs like our annual traffic safety summit and this Roadwatch allow California youths to lead their peers in reducing distracted driving collisions."

Not Just Cellphones Additional driving distractions observed by this week's Roadwatch participants:


Extreme volume on radio


6 - per hour/site


Wearing headphones


4 - per hour/site


Pet on driver's lap


4 - per hour/site




1 - per hour/site

Here are some county-by-county totals:


Orange County

193 distractions per site (4)


Ventura County

143 distractions per site (5)


San Joaquin County

110 distractions per site (8)


Tulare County

104 distractions per site (3)

"It's scary," said Nani Dodson of Friday Night Live Tulare County, after an hour observing distracted driving at one study site there. "This goes on constantly, and we are all vulnerable to the consequences of this behavior."

In 2011, the first year of this Roadwatch, more than 6,700 instances of distractions were recorded at 62 sites near California schools. In 2012, more than 7,000 distractions were recorded at 67 sites.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving accounted for one of every 10 U.S. traffic fatalities in 2010. In 2009, CHP reported 116 traffic fatalities caused by distracted driving in California.

Active in 54 counties statewide, CFNLP engages young people to become active leaders and resources in their communities.