Motorists vs. Pedestrians: La Jolla survey says distracted driving is chief cause of accidents

Close Call: This photo was taken Monday afternoon, April 15, 2013 at the intersection of Draper Avenue and Pearl Street in La Jolla. Do motorists and pedestrians belong in the crosswalk at the same time? (Photo by Ashley Mackin)
Close Call: This photo was taken Monday afternoon, April 15, 2013 at the intersection of Draper Avenue and Pearl Street in La Jolla. Do motorists and pedestrians belong in the crosswalk at the same time? (Photo by Ashley Mackin)
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Close Call: This photo was taken Monday afternoon, April 15, 2013 at the intersection of Draper Avenue and Pearl Street in La Jolla. Do motorists and pedestrians belong in the crosswalk at the same time? (Photo by Ashley Mackin)

By Ashley Mackin

After reporting on the Pedestrian Enforcement and Education Project (PEEP) carried out by the San Diego Police Department March 7, which emphasized pedestrian violations, La Jolla Light reached out to SDPD Traffic Division for the violations made by motorists when it comes to pedestrians.

SDPD Traffic Community Relations Officer Mark McCullough and San Diego Sheriff’s Deputy Lt. Julius Faulkner discussed these violations and how the police are cracking down on them this month.

The most pervasive motorist violation is what police refer to as “distracted driving.” McCullough said some of the other mistakes drivers make include violations of right-of-ways and failure to stop at an appropriate signal.

Distracted driving

A violation that takes many forms is driving while distracted, which is why April is National Distracted Driving Awareness month. In preparing for this month, the UC San Diego School of Medicine conducted a survey on cell phone usage and driving habits.

The survey was conducted Feb. 8-March 31, and focused on the driving habits of San Diego County residents, ages 30-64. Overall, 715 participants completed the survey. Results revealed using cell phones while operating a vehicle is the leading cause of driver distraction crashes in California.

The survey also revealed: 56 percent reported driving with a handheld phone and 92 percent drive with a hands-free phone; adults with children younger than 11 years old in the car were significantly more likely to text and to talk on a handheld phone, and 31 percent of respondents feel obliged to take a work- related call while driving.

Lt. Faulkner said while most people think of using a cell phone as the only definition of distracted driving, it can take many forms.

“Distracted driving is anything that’s preventing you from keeping your eyes on the road and driving on the roadway,” he said. “People putting on makeup in the car, people reading papers, people trying to read maps, people having conversations with passengers — that’s all distracted driving.”

For National Distracted Driving Awareness month, the California Highway Patrol and the San Diego Sheriff’s Department are cracking down on distracted drivers throughout April.

McCullough said distracted driving goes “both ways” for drivers and pedestrians. He said when people are looking at a phone or iPod; they enter the crosswalk without looking up to see if it is safe to do so. “But we don’t cite you for distracted walking ... when you are behind the wheel of a car you constitute a danger to others, so we do cite you for distracted driving.”

Right-of-way violations

McCullough said one of the biggest moving violations he sees is right-of-way violations — mostly drivers turning right who get a green light and start to turn not realizing a pedestrian is at the sidewalk waiting to cross. He said when there are pedestrians with a green “walk” sign and a vehicle turns, that motorist constitutes a right-of-way violation.

“If a person has already entered the roadway and is crossing (near) that turning vehicle, that turning vehicle has to stop and yield that right of way,” he said.

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