Thirteen-year-old Aaron Marks stood before the Pacific Palisades Community Council asking for a letter in support of his campaign to create signs warning drivers against the use of hand-held cell phones on Sunset Boulevard in the Palisades.
“My project is to bring awareness to the dangers of using a cell phone while driving,” said Marks. “Though it is already a law in the books it is hardly a law to many Palisadians.”
At first Marks' goal was to go door-to-door asking residents to take a pledge to stop the dangerous practice, he said. After he realized that a pledge would not be enough to alleviate the problem, he came up with the idea to install 12-by-8 inch signs in six key traffic locations in the Palisades and gathered 200 signatures in support of the project.
The signs would be placed along Sunset Boulevard at the intersections of Palisades Drive, Marquez Terrace, Temescal Canyon, Monument Street, Chautauqua Boulevard and Capri Drive, according to the proposed plan.
Chairwoman Janet Turner sent Marks' proposal to the Beautiful Palisades Committee for review.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Steve Boyers, the community council's area seven alternate. “I have walked across Sunset and Monument several times a day on a regular basis and I can’t count the number of times that one of our Palisadians has been on the phone making a left turn onto Sunset . . . and I don’t know how may near misses I have seen.”
Joyce Brunnele, Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce representative, was also in favor of the idea. She told the Community Council that she was nearly hit because of a distracted driver recently.
“I am 100 percent for the signs,” Brunnele said. “I think they should also say that it’s the law.”
Richard Cohen said that the board has voted decisively in the past against signs on the scenic corridor running along the Palisades to maintain an uncluttered scenic highway.
“I drive Sunset every day and have been almost run off the road by latte-sipping cell phone users and I am as angry as anyone, but I think as delightful as the idea is from a regulatory standpoint it isn’t going to happen,” Cohen said. “I urge the LAPD to enforce the law and leave it at that.”
California law states that a “person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving,” according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Fines for violating the law are $20 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses.
In 2008, the Census Bureau reported that there were 3,434 traffic fatalities in California due to distracted drivers and 175 of those involved vehicles moving 35 mph, which is the speed limit along Sunset Boulevard.