Just after midnight on January 12, 2016, Pasadena Police Department received a call from dispatch about a collision on the corner of Maple Street and El Molino Avenue.
A 41-year-old mother and her 18-year-old daughter had been violently hit by a driver who wasn’t under the influence, but he was looking at his phone instead of paying attention to driving.
The few seconds his eyes were off the road resulted in a fatal mistake.
“The driver was a 19-year-old Pasadena resident who wasn’t under the influence. He had never had any tickets or been arrested. He was a young man who was recklessly driving 81 mph down Maple Street while watching a music video. He was both speeding and distracted, and didn’t see the red light at El Molino and he slammed broadside onto the victims,” said Lt. Mark Goodman, Traffic Section at Pasadena Police Department.
The victims of the collision died that night. They were 3 blocks away from their home.
The driver was charged with vehicular man slaughter and will spend 5 years in jail.
For traffic officers, like Lt. Goodman, when he sees drivers sneak a call or hide their phone on their lap so they can write a quick text, it reminds them of the grim collision on Maple Street and El Molino.
An accident that could have been avoided had the driver just got in his car – and drove.
“Driving is a full time job,” Goodman said. “But most people think they can multitask, they can text and drive, they can talk on the phone … they don’t think this could be deadly. But it can be, we see it.”
Throughout the month of April, Pasadena Police Department will have additional officers on patrol looking for drivers on their phones as part of the national campaign for Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Pasadena Police Department receives a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, which helps them with funding to add more direct patrol out on the streets.
Traffic officers went out on April 1st for its 1st out of 4 programs for the month April that puts the focus on ticketing distracted drives. Traffic officers gave out 89 tickets for texting and driving. And another 24 for talking on the cell phone.
“We aren’t just concerned about this in April, we are thinking about this every day,” said Goodman. “The funds from the grant allow us to do directive patrol and directive enforcement of distracted driving during this month. And we take this as an opportunity to put a spotlight on this problem. A lot of these drivers aren’t kids, but adults, who know better. Parents who tell their kids not to text and drive, but they do. ”
According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, a 2016 survey showed that 44% of California drivers know that texting while driving is the most serious distraction for drivers. 54% of California drivers said they had been hit or nearly been hit by a driver talking or texting on a cell phone and 40 percent of drivers have admitted to making a mistake while on a cell phone.
Police Officer, Robert Gaudet has been working at Pasadena Police Department for 25 years. Ten of those years has been under the traffic division. He has been able to witness firsthand how distracted driving has changed through the years.
“It used to be the radio. Eating while driving. Talking on the phone, then trying to talk with the speaker on,” said Officer Gaudet. “As time has gone on, technology has gotten better. These days, people aren’t talking on the phone, they are texting … looking at their email. Checking their Instagram or Facebook page.”
Traffic officers have trained themselves to look for drivers looking down at their laps, which often means they are reading. Extra space between cars or if a driver has suddenly stopped moving, can mean they have become distracted by something on their phone.
“The best way to stay safe or not get a ticket is to not have the phone in your hand,” said Officer Gaudet. “And using your phone at a red light is still illegal, people think it’s OK. But it’s not. Get something for your dash. Mount your phone so you are not touching it. And if you absolutely have to make that phone call, send that text or answer that email. Pull over. Go to the side of the road. It only takes a few seconds. And it can save your life.”
For more information, http://gosafelyca.org/distracted-driving/