County coalition launches billboard campaign against distracted driving

  • Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane helps unveil a billboard campaign aimed at protecting pedestrians and bicyclists from distracted drivers, at Petaluma Valley Hospital, in Petaluma on Monday, March 25, 2013.

    (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

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 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.

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