A texting driver and a boy possibly playing chicken with traffic collided Monday on a busy Rohnert Park thoroughfare, sending the 12‑year‑old to the hospital, according to a Rohnert Park police commander.
Driver Sadie Sonntag, 38, of Petaluma, was reading a text message while southbound on Snyder Lane about 3:45 p.m. when she struck the boy, who was running across the street in a crosswalk. By the time she looked up and saw him, she couldn’t stop in time, police said.
The boy was knocked onto the hood of her Toyota Camry and thrown about 40 feet.
He suffered a broken leg, injured shoulder and various bumps and scrapes, and was admitted to Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa. He was expected to be transferred to Children’s Hospital Oakland. Police declined to release his name because of his age. Officers Tuesday still were investigating but it appeared the crash was avoidable on two fronts, said Rohnert Park Police Cmdr. Aaron Johnson.
“We’ve also learned this kid may have been playing chicken, running across the road, trying to get across the road and back,” Johnson said. “Witnesses said it looked like he was trying to dodge cars.”
The driver admitted to officers she’d been reading a text.
“The kid should not have been playing chicken if that was indeed what he was doing, and the driver shouldn’t have been distracted,” Johnson said.
Officers called to the crash near Capri Court, south of Rancho Cotate High School, found a highly distraught Sonntag with the injured boy, Johnson said.
The driver was traveling under the 35 mph speed limit at the time of the collision. Officers determined distracted driving was the cause and alcohol was not a factor.
But Rohnert Park police officers also have been concerned about reports of teens or kids playing chicken in the Snyder Lane area since earlier in the fall.
At the start of the school year, administrators from Lawrence E. Jones Middle School on Snyder Lane alerted police they feared some kids were “trying this chicken game,” Johnson said. “They run from the sidewalk, touch the double yellow line and back again.”
Scott Johnson, principal of Lawrence E. Jones Middle School, said the student in question went to Technology Middle School on Burton Avenue, several blocks west of where the incident occurred.
Johnson said he has heard of kids playing chicken in the past and every year the school takes steps to warn them and their parents about the dangers, including by partnering with the Rohnert Park police, he said.
But he was surprised to hear a kid might have been playing it at such a busy location.
“I mean, kids are dumb but they’re not stupid,” Johnson said.
Officers have patrolled the area more often but suspect the sight of a patrol car would stop such behavior.
Aaron Johnson, the Rohnert Park police commander, said officers are focused on all pedestrian violations and expect to be giving out tickets versus warnings.
They also are looking for any sign of distracted driving.
“People need to prioritize and focus on their driving,” he said.
Officers working Monday’s crash were keenly aware it happened just days before the sixth anniversary of the death of a 2-year-old Rohnert Park girl, hit by a texting driver.