More Sonoma County drivers use their phones behind the wheel compared to other California counties, according to a statewide survey gauging distracted driving behavior released Tuesday.
The study, conducted by the California Office of Traffic Safety and UC Berkeley, found that nearly 13 percent of Sonoma County drivers are on their phones when driving, up from 7 percent in 2014, but down slightly compared to the year prior. Researchers used a small sample size when analyzing results, physically observing 71 drivers this year and just 14 last year.
Sonoma County was the only county to reach double digits. Riverside County came in second at 9.4 percent, according to the study.
Statewide, researchers looked at distracted driving in 17 of 58 California counties, a formula based on places with the highest driving rates. Statewide, they counted a total of 5,349 drivers on their phones at 130 locations from Feb. 21 to April 6, 2015.
Most of the people seen on their phones were 16 to 24 years old. Traffic researchers counted drivers for 45 minutes per location between 7 a.m. and 5:50 p.m.
“It’s shocking that nearly 10 percent of motorists were observed using their cell phones while driving a motor vehicle — a potentially-lethal combination,” said Ronda Craft, director of the Office of Traffic Safety, in a prepared statement. “We will continue our aggressive public outreach campaign and our partnership with law enforcement to educate the public about the dangers of those who drive distracted and put the lives of others at risk.”