A distracted driving intervention program run by the is gaining some traction in the cities of Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Malibu and Westlake Village where it was founded.
Dubbed STTOP (Sheriff’s Teen Traffic Offender Program), the program debuted about 10 years ago, according to Edwin Tamayo, a Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy who helped launch the program.
The STTOP procedure is easy and free. Concerned citizens can call 877-310-STOP or go online to put in the license plate and description of a car, whose teen driver has been observed texting while driving, talking on the phone while driving, speeding or exhibiting other distracted driving behavior.
Parents can also choose to have a free bumper sticker affixed to their teens' cars, with the toll-free call-in number prominently displayed.
According to Tamayo, the program averages about 40 to 45 call-ins a month but the numbers are usually higher in the summer.
It’s a well-known fact that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for young people in the 15 to 20 age group, according to the US Department of Transportation.
“Our primary intent is intervention and awareness, not prosecution or discipline,” said Jason Ojeda, current deputy in charge of STTOP.
Ojeda and other sheriff’s deputies will then try to locate and contact the parents, through a letter or phone call.
Parents then have the option of a “home visit” although some opt to bring their teens in to the sheriff's station, depending on the scenario or offense, said Ojeda.
The consequences include driver’s licenses and cars getting taken away by the parents, according to Tamayo.
“It really scares the teens because they think they’re in serious trouble,” he said.
Funding comes from the original five cities, but others, including Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai, Santa Clarita, Santa Paula, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, have latched on, allowing the program to expand.
“We share information and resources with the other participating cities on an ongoing basis,” said Ojeda.
Aside from the home interventions, STTOP also travels to the local high schools at least twice a year–around the start and end of the school year.
The deputies bring an interactive DUI crash trailer featuring a car that has been in a real-life crash–“to drive home the message of distracted driving,” said Ojeda.
STTOP also participates in “,” a national program at the high school level that depicts the dangers of impaired driving.
Within the community, the deputies can be seen at street fairs and city events such as the upcoming Hidden Hills Fiesta Days on September 22-23. STTOP also teaches bicycle safety including proper helmet usage to elementary-aged children as part of its community outreach efforts.
“We’re maintaining a presence in the community, so we can talk to the teens and their parents, answer questions and educate them on the dangers of distracted driving,” said Ojeda.
On why STTOP is catching on quickly, Tamayo said, “Parents like it because it allows them to be better parents and because there seems to be a bigger community out here ensuring their teens’ safety.”