SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) – The most in-depth drowsy driving research ever conducted in the U.S. found that the percentage of crashes involving drowsiness is nearly eight times higher than federal estimates, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The new research provides an unprecedented analysis of in-vehicle dashcam video from more than 700 crashes, confirming that the danger of drowsy driving soars above official estimates. The difficulty in detecting drowsiness following a crash makes drowsy driving one of the most under reported traffic safety issues, according to AAA.

“Drowsy driving is a bigger traffic safety issue than federal estimates show,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Drivers who don’t get enough sleep are putting everyone on the road at risk. By conducting an in-depth analysis using video of everyday drivers, we can now better assess if a driver was fatigued in the moments leading up to a crash.”

In the study, researchers examined video of drivers’ faces in the three minutes leading up to a crash. Using a scientific measure linking the percentage of time a person’s eyes are closed to their level of drowsiness, the researchers determined that 9.5 percent of all crashes and 10.8 percent of crashes resulting in significant property damage involved drowsiness. Federal estimates indicate drowsiness is a factor in only one to two percent of crashes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 35 percent of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours daily. In a recent related AAA Foundation survey, 29 percent of drivers admitted to driving when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open at some point in the past month.

“As many Americans struggle to balance their busy schedules, missing a few hours of sleep each day can seem harmless,” said Michael Blasky, spokesman for AAA Northern California. “But missing just two to three hours of sleep can more than quadruple your risk for a crash, which is the equivalent of driving drunk.”

Knowing the warning signs of drowsiness can help drivers avoid dozing off behind the wheel. The most common symptoms include:

  • Having trouble keeping your eyes open

  • Drifting from your lane

  • Not remembering the last few miles driven

Short term tactics like drinking coffee, singing, rolling down the window will not work -- the only antidote for drowsiness is sleep. AAA recommends that drivers:

  • Travel at times of the day when they are normally awake

  • Avoid heavy foods

  • Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment

For longer trips, drivers should:

  • Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles

  • Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving

  • Do not underestimate the power of a quick nap. Pulling into a rest stop and taking a quick catnap -- at least 20 minutes and no more than 30 minutes of sleep-- can help to keep you alert on the road.

To help drivers determine if their medications may cause drowsiness, AAA and the AAA Foundation developed Roadwise Rx, a free and confidential online tool that generates personalized feedback about how the interactions between prescription, over-the-counter medicines and herbal supplements can affect safety behind the wheel.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s report, Prevalence of Drowsy Driving Crashes: Estimates from a Large-Scale Naturalistic Driving Study, is based on the analysis of in-vehicle video footage of crashes that occurred during the Second Strategic Highway Research Program’s Naturalistic Driving Study (SHRP 2 NDS). The federally funded study recruited 3,593 drivers from six study sites across the U.S. The drivers were monitored continually using in-vehicle video and other data collection equipment while driving their personal vehicles for a period of several months.  

About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit AAAFoundation.org.

About AAA
AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers since it was founded more than 100 years ago. Visit AAA.com.

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Race for the Arts is Always More Than A Race

By Sally Rice  |  2018-02-07

Photo Credit Tia Gemmell / Caption:  Save the date, August 25 at Wm Land Park, and join the run as Race for the Arts celebrates 20 years!

CELEBRATING 20 YEARS BENEFITING CALIFORNIA ARTS

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Grab your running shoes, friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and join the fun! Race for the Arts is for everyone the serious runners (5K timed by B-tag) and for the casual runner/walker.  Run, walk, jog or jeté along the racecourse in Sacramento's shady William Land Park. 

Entertainment throughout the racecourse and a FREE Arts Festival – What's not to love?  Come out for the Race and stay for the Free Arts Festival with food, hands-on booths and plenty of entertainment.  Visit Sacramento's restaurants and attractions – for hotel specials, go to https://www.visitsacramento.com/hotels/race-for-the-arts/

Race for the Arts raises funds and awareness for ALL California nonprofit visual, performing, cultural, literary and culinary arts organizations, and school music, drama, literary, art and culinary arts programs.  They receive 100% of Pledges designated to them.

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The Lion in Winter

By Susan Maxwell Skinner  |  2018-02-07

Gulp. Below the out-flow from Nimbus Dam, salmon, trout and even waterfowl provided a banquet for a sea lion visitor.  Over a period of two weeks, the marine mammal twice visited Nimbus to feast.

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - American River Nature watchers recently beheld hungry sea lions swimming through Arcade, Carmichael and Fair Oaks. Winter visits by the species are not uncommon but the recent sightings were considered rare for the distances the mammals had traveled inland.

In the space of two weeks, there were two separate sightings - thought to be the same individual - at Nimbus Dam. The 90ft high concrete wall stopped his migration and hours of happy hunting followed. “You could hear him before you saw him,” said a transfixed angler. “He was roaring like an elephant. I saw him surface with a fish trashing in his mouth. He swallowed it whole - head-first.”

Battling against the dam’s white-water outflow, the muscular visitor gorged. When exhaustion took over, he slipped briefly back toward the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, only to return to the floodgate again and again.  After a day, he vanished downstream but likely spread the word among fellows nearer Sacramento. Last Friday, not one but three of his species were seen laboring upstream near Watt Avenue. The trailblazer alone returned to feast at Nimbus. Here, angler Jason Nicholas put down his rod to watch a large steelhead being devoured. “In 30 years that I’ve fished here,” he observed, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Around 6ft long (weighing perhaps 400 pounds) this adult had journeyed more than 130 river miles from the Pacific Ocean. Though quite a feat, his trek is not a record. Another sea lion reached the Woodbridge Dam near Lodi in 1997. “They’re salt-water animals but they follow the fish,” explained California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Andrew Hughan. “They come inland from the (San Francisco) Bay for late salmon and steelhead. They like the fish that are rich in meat and fat.”

The mammals frustrate anglers and have occasionally provoked violence from some who regard them as poachers. “They’re the dogs of the ocean,” says Hughan. “They’re curious and friendly; they’ll steal fish, but they won’t hurt anyone.

“We don’t monitor sea lions or do anything about them unless they’re distressed. A marine mammal inland is a naturally-occurring phenomenon. If you see one, don’t feed it. They need to be left alone to catch fish. It’s a cool sight. People should just stand back and enjoy the moment.”

Footnote: sea lions are Federally protected. Anyone seeing harassment or injury toward the species should call the police or a park ranger.

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Sacramento's Society for the Blind Expands Onsite Retail Store Through Partnership with North State Assistive Technology

By Kristin Thebaud  |  2018-02-07

Shirley Garrett receives help from Cory Hanosh at the expanded onsite retail store at Society for the Blind in Sacramento. Photo courtesy of the Society for the Blind

Expanded hours, products and training will benefit local residents with vision loss

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) – Sacramento region residents with vision loss will have greater access to low-vision and blindness technology and products thanks to a new partnership between Sacramento nonprofit Society for the Blind and North State Assistive Technology in Chico that began Feb. 1. Through the partnership, Society for the Blind’s onsite retail store at 1238 S Street in Sacramento is now open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and will include weekend and evening appointments. The store, now called North State Assistive Technology at Society for the Blind, offers an expanded collection of assistive technology products with better pricing, in-home delivery and set-up, training and online shopping. For more information, visit SocietyForTheBlind.org/Store

“This partnership ensures a one-of-a-kind retail store for our region that continues to offer products and devices for people with vision loss while also expanding to provide even better service to the many Sacramento region residents who are learning how to achieve fulfilling lives with vision loss,” said Shari Roeseler, executive director, Society for the Blind.

The expanded store features products and devices for people with low vision and those with no functional vision, including canes, talking clocks and calculators, kitchen products, and various video imaging and optical reader devices.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to bring more products and services to people living with low vision and blindness throughout all of Northern California,” said Cory Hanosh, owner, North State Assistive Technology. 

For more than 60 years, Society for the Blind has created innovative ways to empower individuals living with low vision or blindness to discover, develop and achieve their full potential. Society for the Blind has grown from a dedicated group of volunteers that included the Lions Clubs of America to a nationally recognized agency and the only comprehensive rehabilitative teaching center that provides services for a 27-county region of northern California. The nonprofit provides low-vision eye care, life and job skills training, mentorship, and access to tools to maintain independence for 6,000 youth, adults and seniors experiencing vision loss each year. For more information or to make a donation, visit SocietyForTheBlind.org

North State Assistive Technology is an industry leader and statewide resource for products, technology assessments and training on devices for people living with vision loss. For more information, visit NorthStateAT.com.

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Paying It Forward

Story and photos by Jacqueline Fox  |  2018-02-06

From L-R: Lisa Culp, founder and executive director, Women’s Empowerment (WEP), Kristen Garl, General Manager, Express Employment Professionals, NE Sacramento,  Kathryn Ontiveros, accounting specialist at Express Employment Professionals, and WEP Development Manager, Holly Byrom, celebrate a donation from Express Employment’s annual Pay if Forward campaign.

Express Employment Hiring Drive Generates Funding for Sacramento’s Women’s Empowerment

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Express Employment Professionals (EMP) NE Sacramento has again put women in need at the top of their philanthropic agenda, which means more homeless women across the Sacramento region will have an opportunity to create a pathway to change this year.

Since 2015, EMP has donated $10 to a nonprofit of its choosing for every first-time job placement booked through its agency during Annual Pay It Forward Holiday Hiring Drive, which runs from November to December.  EMP has more than 750 franchised locations across the country and each conduct their own individual philanthropic programs. 

In 2015, Express Employment staff voted to support Women’s Empowerment of Sacramento (WEP) through as part of its giving back campaign.  The 2016 drive, the sixth annual campaign, generated 62 first-time job placements, culminating in a total of $620.00 for WEP.  On January 29, the agency’s General Manager, Kristen Garl, and Kathryn Ontiveros, EMP accounting specialist, presented WEP with their donation before a backdrop of photo stories of hundreds of just some of the women who have been helped via the programs offered at WEP since its inception in 2001.

“We are very proud to support Women’s Empowerment Sacramento,” said Garl.  “We have worked with a handful of nonprofit organizations over the last six years and they are all wonderful organizations.  But three years ago, as reviewed our goals for the campaign, our staff voted and WEP was selected hands-down by the majority of our team.”

The money will go to support WEP programs, which include a comprehensive, nine-week job-readiness education and emotional empowerment workshop for area homeless women.  That includes, resume preparation classes, mock interviewing, Internet job search training, budgeting, access to the agency’s dress for success clothing closet, transportation and even free, onsite childcare.

In addition, women enrolled in WEP programs are paired with an employment specialist, social worker and a volunteer career mentor to help them identify their skills and interests and realize their career goals.  Getting off the street and into a job, experts agree, is the sure-fire way for homeless individuals to create a pathway to a new life and end the cycle of poverty.

To date EMP has donated a total of $1,640 to WEP via its Pay It Forward campaign.

“We have an amazing relationship with Express Employment,” said WEP’s Development Manager, Holly Byrom.
“The support we receive each year is significant, and their mission is very closely aligned with our goal to help women get out of poverty and into a job, a home and a new life.”

More than 1,500 women with a combined total of some 3,500 children have benefited from the classes and services offered through WEP, 521 in 2017 alone.  Roughly 80 percent of those served, including the 157 in 2017, have successfully secured a job or enrolled in school or vocational training upon completion of their WEP program.

WEP was named Nonprofit of the Year by the Nonprofit Resource Center in 2009, one of the most prestigious honors a nonprofit can receive in the Sacramento region.  And, in 2014, WEP was chosen as the Organization of the Year at the inaugural Women’s Appreciation Awards by Congresswoman Doris Matsui, then Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assemblyman, Roger Dickinson.

WEP is a private organization and does not receive any federal funding.  Its social enterprise program generates roughly $54,000 in income annually.  Grants and family foundations account for roughly $400,000 toward its annual $1.1 million budget.  Remaining funds are generated through a combination of individual gifts, the United Way and Special Events.

“We know the pathway to breaking the cycle of homelessness is through employment,” said WEP Executive Director Lisa Culp, formerly on staff at Sacramento’s Loaves and Fishes.  “Our participants are 100 percent homeless women.  So we promise them that if they come in and complete our program, we will help them find a job, a home and a new life.”

It takes money to offer all of the services made available to local homeless women in need.  Programming costs for WEP account for $723,000 alone.  As such Garl said her agency’s support for WEP is ongoing.  As her team connects with existing and potential employers, schools and other entities, it networks for homeless women and WEP, encouraging employers to believe in second chances and supporting WEP’s social enterprise, the Get a Job Kit. 

The kit, which sells for $15.99, is a colorfully printed “tool box” for job seekers, which includes a comprehensive packet of job readiness guide sheets and resources.  It was created for WEP clients initially, but it is adding value to the community at large, especially wherever there are students or other job seekers trying to secure long-term employment.

“We are always pushing for support for Women’s Empowerment everywhere we can,” said Garl.  “We could not be more thrilled to be connected with WEP and its mission, and intend to keep supporting them for as long as we can, in as many ways possible.”

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SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - “This was our rig ten years ago,” said the research technician, nonchalantly slapping a clunky headset that resembles a prop from The Matrix into the hands of a surprised student. “It cost forty thousand dollars,” he continued, as students passed the metallic monstrosity from hand to hand, “And now we use a consumer headset that costs five hundred and does the same thing better.”

I was visiting Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, a state-of-the-art fully-immersive room that, at its core, runs off of an everyday computer and an HTC Vive virtual reality (VR) headset. I was being given a sneak peek behind the lab’s research, which not only reaffirms the mind-bending illusions of VR, but explores its powerful effects on human behavior. Subjects who were made to cut down a virtual tree were more likely to conserve paper, those who were immersed in a dying coral reef were more likely to retain information about ocean acidification, and people who were given superpowers and told to save a digital child were more likely to come to a real person’s aid in the aftermath of the virtual experience.

The evidence seems clear: VR is possibly the most influential artistic medium currently in existence because of its innate ability to quickly change how people think and behave. Right now most of the research explores the potential benefits of such influence, increases in charitable donations, environmental awareness, and general good citizenship, but as one fellow student of mine pointed out, couldn’t it just as easily be used for ill?

It’s a question that the research is yet to adequately explore; considering there is already some observed correlation between violent video games and short-term increases in aggression, how might the average person react to a fully immersive virtual experience?

The researcher remarked that, without the fourth wall of a single screen, he found violent VR experiences extremely unpleasant; after all, violence in real life is horrific far more often than it is fun. Nevertheless, one person’s experience can’t outweigh the fact that a definite market for extremely violent and brutal VR experiences will develop as the more people get their hands on VR technology.

Right now, most popular VR experiences dodge this problem by seriously pulling their punches. Few VR games or experiences are realistically violent, and the ones that are refrain from being as “in your face” as they obviously could have been. But the question remains on whether the moral onus on the consumers not to be influenced by violent VR, or on VR content creators to not make it in the first place.

Despite its potential problems, our first instinct should be to place the responsibility on the consumers, not on the creators, as we do with every other art form. Most headsets come with a warning that VR should not be used by children under 12, and if those warnings are kept as prominent as they are today, we can hopefully restrict the VR audience largely to people who are capable of telling truth from fiction and won’t take VR’s potential negative effects to heart. Nevertheless, as this powerful new medium continues to emerge the question of how it could damage us is arguably more important than the exploring possible benefits. If finding research subjects proves problematic, we can turn once again to Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. College students are always looking for a thrill, and VR could prove to be the adventure of a lifetime.

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SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Tucked away in a book in my Capitol office is a letter addressed to Kenneth William Cooley whose return address is stated simply as The White House.  A 4 cent stamp on the envelope shows a Mercury space capsule floating above a luminous Earth with the words “US Man in Space.” Its cancellation mark shows it was mailed on May 4th 1962 in Washington, D.C. I had written President John F. Kennedy at the age of seven, and received that response shortly after I turned eight.

As a child, I was inspired that President Kennedy dreamed big dreams and was bold-minded as an innovator. As an adult, I now know the ensuing US space program reflects his willingness to ask “what might be?”

In my adult life, both as a founder of the City of Rancho Cordova, with 10 years on its City Council and two terms as Mayor, and now as a State Assemblyman, I find another John Kennedy quote relevant almost every day.

Our responsibility,” Kennedy said, “is one of decision, for to govern is to choose.”

While I still agree that “to govern is to choose,” my Ken Cooley corollary is that we must always know the available choices.

To strengthen public confidence in government, we in government need to make good choices that use tax dollars wisely. Public stewardship is more than well-managed programs, however. Programs themselves must tackle the right priorities. It is the State Legislature’s job, as a co-equal branch of government, to conduct vigorous oversight and monitoring of state agencies so multi-million and billion dollar state projects don’t balloon out of control or get spent on the wrong goals.

Recent news makes me very pleased with my early opposition to two expensive projects which use dollars I believe would be put to better use to strengthen our schools, early childhood education and other critical social and physical infrastructure needs of our state.

These are the High Speed Rail (HSR/Bullet Train) project that I opposed when a key vote came up in 2013 to allocate one quarter of cap and trade dollars to it in a continuing appropriation and also the twin tunnels proposal. Concerning the tunnels, I believe they place at risk the waters of San Francisco Bay, which is the greatest estuary system on the west coast of North and South America. Teeming with millions of fish and all the waterfowl which use the Pacific Flyway depend on those waters, just as you and I, and our children and grandchildren do. 

Diverting scarce public dollars to the bullet train and the twin delta tunnels is a bad choice.

When passed by the voters in 2008 before the severity of the most recent recession became plain, the entire High Speed Rail project was promised to cost $40 billion. By 2016 it had climbed to $64 billion and now the latest cost estimate for the first segment has jumped nearly 80%, up to $10.6 billion.  “The worst-case scenario,” a financial consultant recently said “has happened.”  

In addition, because the project has yet to tackle reaching the more populous Bay Area and Los Angeles, the financial estimates will likely worsen.

Given our state’s challenges, I will continue my opposition to giving a big new blank check to the consistently over-budget bullet train. That would be putting good money after bad and will actually prevent the state’s ability to address other key needs. Like my original 2013 “NO vote” on the HSR continuing appropriation, I will not support major new funding now.  

The second state initiative fraught with problems and in swift need of additional oversight is the “Water Fix” project, which includes the construction of twin tunnels (40 feet in diameter and 35 miles long) underneath the Sacramento−San Joaquin River Delta and estuary.

Much of California’s water supply passes through the Delta’s “gateway” into the waters of San Francisco Bay. Decades of pumping water from this critical estuary to southern California has significantly contributed to its declining ecosystem, placing many species at risk of extinction.  Many environmentalists say the tunnels would bring even more harm.

Environmental issues aside, the project is on shaky ground economically. The estimated $17 billion project was slated to be funded by water agencies that would benefit from Delta sourced water supplies. However, not a single member of the federal water management Central Valley Project has agreed to support or contribute to WaterFix. Further, a 2017 federal audit said $50 million in taxpayer funds were used improperly to subsidize the San Joaquin Irrigation District for their part in helping plan WaterFix.

The administration reportedly is considering scaling the twin tunnels down to a single tunnel, a dramatic change that will require more dollars for redesign and environmental studies and I continue to oppose spending that money at this time.

It is still very much true, as John F. Kennedy stated, that to govern is to choose, and I believe we need to focus on choices that will bring better benefits to all California children, communities, and our future.

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