CHP Promotes Teen Safe Driving, Distracted Driving Awareness -- March 30, 2015

This April, law enforcement officials including the California Highway Patrol are highlighting their efforts to promote safety for California Teen Safe Driving Week and National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

“Distracted driving is the number one killer of teens nationally. There are about 5,000 fatal automobile crashes involving teens nationally with 10 percent in California,” said Officer John Lutz with the Newhall CHP office. “In this valley, it’s prevalent. If you spend a moment at the youth grove, you’ll see there were 91 preventable deaths of the youth related to vehicle collisions.”

The Newhall CHP officers partner with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, other law enforcement and emergency officials to host programs and events including Every 15 Minutes, Start Smart and Impact Teen Drivers, which is a nonprofit public awareness and education program.

Five Start Smart classes have been held since January, Lutz said. One at the Canyon Country Library, Valencia Library, Newhall Library, one for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Vital Intervention and Directional Alternatives Program and one for the College of the Canyons Explorer Program.

The next event is planned to be held April 14 from 5-7 p.m. at the CHP Newhall Office, 28648 The Old Rd, Santa Clarita, CA 91355, Lutz said. It is open to the public.

“This is designed as a driver’s safety education class for new and future licensed teen drivers and their parents,” Lutz said. “The laws have changed quite a bit for first year provisional license restrictions. This event also has a lot of information as well as statistics and equipment information about things they should be able to expect on the roadway.”

The CHP Newhall officers are also planning to host a car seat checkup event this month as well.

“Seat belts are just as easily important as driving habits,” Lutz said. “Fifty percent of people we lose in traffic collisions are because they weren’t wearing seat belts.”

Last week, two people were killed in a traffic collision on Soledad Canyon Road. Neither were wearing seat belts, Lutz said.

In honor of California Teen Safe Driving Week and National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), the California Highway Patrol (CHP), Impact Teen Drivers and local law enforcement agencies are planning to meet for a news conference Wednesday, April 1 at 11 a.m. in Sacramento.

Joe Farrow, commissioner for the California Highway Patrol; Rhonda Craft, director for the California Office of Traffic Safety; Kelly Browning, executive director of the Impact Teen Drivers; and Maria Coyner, volunteer for the Impact Teen Drivers organization are expected to speak at the event.

Coyner, a Stockton resident, served time in state prison for a texting-and-driving collision in 2013, which caused the death of a 24-year-old Nipomo man, according to a news release.  She now volunteers with Impact Teen Drivers to talk about how her careless act completely changed her life and ended the life of an innocent person.

Local teenagers will demonstrate the dangers of distracted driving by using Safetyville USA’s driving simulators while texting, talking, and eating – actions which drivers of all ages may think they can do safely while operating a motor vehicle, according to the news release.

“We want the community to recognize that CHP has several programs designed to educate new drivers — Start Smart, Every 15 Minutes, Impact Teen Drivers,” Lutz said. “They are very strong programs and this valley supports all of them.”