2002-03-07 / Community

Reports of bad driving by teenagers surge as STTOP picks up the pace

Acorn Staff Writer
By Michael Picarella


MICHAEL COONS/The Acorn  ROAD SAFETY-L.A. County Sheriff's Dep. Mike Woodard runs the Sheriff's Teen Traffic Offender Program for the Las Virgenes/Malibu area. When people see bad driving by teens, they can report it.MICHAEL COONS/The Acorn ROAD SAFETY-L.A. County Sheriff's Dep. Mike Woodard runs the Sheriff's Teen Traffic Offender Program for the Las Virgenes/Malibu area. When people see bad driving by teens, they can report it.

More and more residents have responded to STTOP (Sheriff’s Teen Traffic Offender Program) and the streets of Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Westlake Village and Hidden Hills are becoming safer as a result, according to a local peace officer.

After recent vehicle fatalities and word of mouth about STTOP, the L. A. County program’s coordinator Dep. Mike Woodard has gotten busier.

STTOP, administered by the sheriff’s department, hopes to correct reckless behavior and bad driving practices before they become vehicle fatalities. As people learn the hotline number, they‘ll be able to report young motorists who are driving immaturely to STTOP. Woodard will go out to the young driver’s home and speak with both the individual and parents to resolve the issue. Drivers won’t be issued tickets because they weren’t caught by a patrol officer.

Citizens are asked to report to STTOP reckless driving, speeding, racing or horseplay in a vehicle. One resident, Woodard said, reported a passenger trying to drive a car from another seat while the driver was doing something else.

"The public’s response to this program is the cause for it having such an impact on the teenagers," Woodard said. "It’s nothing I can do myself or something law enforcement can do on their own. It requires the public’s input. They’re our eyes out there on the street," he said.

Some parents have called the hotline and asked Woodard if he could talk with their child before their youngster begins driving. And some parents are fascinated by what Woodard has to say for their own benefit.

Many adults aren’t aware of the new restrictions for provisional instruction permits, driver licenses and/or the restrictions set for the first six months and second six months of having a driver’s license. They’ve also been interested in learning how strict they should be with their child’s driving privileges.

"It’s better to play it safe than to get a police car showing up at your door for the wrong reasons," Woodard said.

Many businesses are supporting STTOP. Woodard has made signs and flyers and has passed them out to store owners and managers in the area who are passing the word along.

Knowledge is the key, Woodard said. The more people who know about the program, the more effective it will be, he said.

Other cities have expressed an interest in the program and in January were given more information. Those municipalities include the cities of Ventura, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Moorpark and Camarillo. The communities of Oak Park and Newbury Park have also shown interest, Woodard said. Ventura is already moving forward to adopt the program, he said.

STTOP still must be approved by the city council in Ventura, Woodard said, but calls he gets from outside his jurisdiction are forwarded to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.

No number has been established yet to serve Ventura County residents nor has additional literature been printed. But that information will be released as soon as it becomes available.

To report dangerous teen drivers or to request a visit from Woodard, call the toll free number, (877) 310-STOP (7867).

The hotline shouldn’t be used for emergencies, Woodard said. Calls to the hotline aren’t answered immediately. Urgent reports, such as drunk driving, should be reported to 911.


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