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Police: Drivers on cell phones cause two major Santa Rosa crashes

Two drivers who police suspect were distracted by their cellphones caused major Santa Rosa crashes this week, including an 18-year-old who was on a FaceTime video call when he struck a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

That crash happened Monday night on North Dutton Avenue and left pedestrian Gabriela Rosas, 20, hospitalized with serious head injuries, Santa Rosa police traffic Sgt. Summer Gloeckner said Wednesday.

About 4:40 p.m. Tuesday, Rafael Chavez, 39, was driving on the 900 block of Corby Avenue in the city while talking on his cellphone when he dropped it. As he leaned over in his Acura sedan to retrieve it, he swerved into a parked Ford pickup, flipped his car and sustained minor injuries.

“These accidents happen daily throughout California and the country. If you’re on your phone, you’re not paying attention to driving, which is what you should be doing,” Gloeckner said.

The North Dutton Avenue crash occurred at 7:45 p.m. Monday. Rosas was midway through walking across the two northbound lanes at West Eighth Street when she was hit. The driver in the curbside lane had stopped for her.

However, Jorge Robolledo Jr. of Santa Rosa, who was driving a Honda Civic in the second lane while talking on a FaceTime call, apparently didn’t realize Rosas was walking in the crosswalk as he approached.

Robolledo didn’t brake before colliding with her.

“She was pretty much catapulted into the air and landed on the asphalt,” Gloeckner said of Rosas.

The teen driver stopped, cooperated and wasn’t impaired, according to a preliminary police investigation. Robolledo told officers that at the time of the collision, he was on a FaceTime call on his cellphone mounted on the dashboard.

“This poor pedestrian was hit in the crosswalk by someone who wasn’t paying attention,” Gloeckner said.

Using a cellphone hands free while driving is legal in California, but not if it causes a distraction. As part of the continuing investigation, police officers are looking at the position of the cradled phone in the Civic at the time of the crash.

“If you’re FaceTiming, you’ve obviously looking at who you’re talking to. That’s not the purpose of ‘hands free,’?” the sergeant said.

Eventually, police officers will refer the findings of their pedestrian crash investigation to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office to review for any possible charges. Robolledo’s driving history is clean and his driver’s license valid, which is taken into account, Gloeckner said.

On Wednesday, Rosas remained hospitalized with head injuries and several broken bones. Her injuries don’t appear to be life-threatening, but she remained unable to talk to officers, the sergeant said.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707-521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.

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