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CHP – ZERO Tolerance On Cell Phone Use Behind The Wheel!

Posted on 20 December 2010 by Monica Zech

 San Diego County Law Enforcement Agencies announce “Zero Tolerance” for Motorists not using Hands-Free Devices

While today’s world enjoys the benefits of an ever increasing pool of technological devices, these benefits come at a price.  Due to the increase in the number of traffic collisions caused by drivers illegally using cell phones, San Diego County Law Enforcement agencies are joining forces on November 17, 2010 to focus enforcement efforts on this menace to the safety of the motoring public.  The San Diego, Oceanside, and El Cajon Offices of the California Highway Patrol, Carlsbad Police Department, Chula Vista Police Department, Coronado Police Department, El Cajon Police Department, Escondido Police Department, National City Police Department, Oceanside Police Department, San Diego Police Department, San Diego Sheriff’s Department, and San Diego State University Police Departments will be aggressively seeking out drivers violating the “hands free” cell phone law.

Cell phone use has become so popular these days that many times we don’t realize when, where, and how often we are using our cellular telephones.  According to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), in 2008 there were more than 30,000 parties in California involved in traffic collisions where inattention played a role.  More than 1,000 of those drivers identified a cell phone as the inattention.  Cell phones are the number one identifiable inattention stated on collision reports.   

Driving is a skill that requires your full attention to safely control your vehicle and respond to events happening on the roads around you.  According to a study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute distracted driving is “anything that diverts the driver’s attention away from the primary tasks of navigating a vehicle and responding to critical events.”  Although NHTSA has indicated that cell phones are the most familiar form of distraction, applying make-up, using a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS), eating, drinking, changing CD’s, adjusting the radio and reading are numerous activities that can distract a driver.           

Law enforcement agencies are already working together to share knowledge and promote a greater understanding of the issue, and identify additional strategies to end distracted driving.  Distracted driving is a serious, life-threatening practice and we will not rest until we stop it.

The message is simple – There is no phone call worth a human life.

 –  Pay attention or pay the price

 – Don’t let distractions take away from your reaction

 A Press Conference will be held on Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 10:30 am at the California Highway Patrol – Border Division Office (9330 Farnham Street, San Diego 92123).  All participating agencies will be present and the collected statistics will be released to the media at that time.

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Distracted Driving – A Deadly Problem – Take The Pledge!

Posted on 30 April 2010 by Monica Zech

Yes – “distracted driving” is a nation-wide problem!  It injures and kills motorists and pedestrians every day!!! 

I talk about distracted driving in my driving safety lectures, but I’ve also been the victim of distracted drivers (3) times in my driving career.  First, I was hit by someone who flew into a parking where I was, while he was looking down at paperwork and talking on a cell phone – I was able to hit the gas and clear my drivers’ side to avoid certain death.  Second,  I was on a freeway – when a driver was busy looking to his right talking to his passenger and failed to notice stopped traffic ahead, he rear-ended traffic while jumping in front of me.  The third, and hopefully the last,  a motorist ran a STOP sign by “two” car lengths coming off a freeway to a surface street, she was in a hurry and busy talking to her young daughter, she looked to her right and “failed” to look to her left as I approached from her left side with the “right of way” – jumping into my path…”that” crash almost paralyzed me.  I’ve got the scar from my $65-thousand neck surgery as lasting proof… so “yes” I know this problem all too well.  (By the way my alertness and seat-belt saved me in all three incidents.)  But sadly, I also respond to these incidents almost daily as a spokesperson for a police and fire department!

Please take a look at the following two websites, the second is Oprah’s “NO PHONE ZONE” campaign – please take the pledge, and have your family, friends, school, workplace, and civic groups “take the pledge!”  It is a matter of Life and Death!  

Take the pledge:

Thank you and stay safe!

Monica Zech

Safe Driving Educator

[email protected]

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My Views On Teen Driving

Posted on 08 March 2009 by Monica Zech


My views on Teen Driving…

Toward the end of 2008 I was contacted by a teen, a student from a high school in Atlanta, Georgia, to answer nine questions in regards to a report she was doing on Teen Driving. Here are the questions, followed by my answers:

Dear Ms. Zech,

In your research in the driving safety, I am writing to ask for your valued opinion on the safety of teenage driving. I am a junior at Warner Robins High School, and as an assignment, I am required to seek information from an authority on teenage driving. I will greatly appreciate it if you will take the time to answer the following questions to the best of your ability and have them completed by the fourth of February (09) since I have a set deadline.

Your expert opinion on teenage driving will add credibility to my research and is greatly appreciated.

L. Franklin

Dear Lauren,
Thank you very much for contacting me – I’d be happy to answer your questions. .

In answer to:
1) What is the one driving danger or distraction for teen drivers that you hear most about today?

My Answer: I understand that you are asking for the “top” distraction, but may I answer it with the top “two” distractions – the distraction of cell phones (talking on a cell or text messaging) – the 2nd, the distraction of friends in the vehicle. The use of cell phones, whether talking or texting, has been proven to be a “deadly distraction” – it’s been compared to being under the influence of 2 to 3 beers. Friends in the vehicle: it’s found, for every friend you put in your vehicle, you increase the danger of having a tragic collision. More friends – more reckless…a tendency to show-off.

2) Do you think that sixteen year olds are ready to be driving by themselves?
My Answer: 16 year old drivers? Well, because of what we see. We would rather the age limit be 18 years of age to drive a vehicle, but it greatly depends on the maturity level of the teen. There are some teens that actually wait until they’re eighteen, sometimes even older. Some teens are more mature than others. But 18 seems to be the age when there’s a maturity level to make better decisions behind the wheel. Then again, even older drivers make poor choices.

3) What is your oppinion on Joshua’s Law? Should teenagers be required to participate in this program?

My Answer: Joshua’s Law is the same law in California we call a “Provisional driver’s license” carrying restrictions during the first year of driving under 18. Both laws are designed to increase your chances of survival behind the wheel through experience.” The more “behind the wheel experience” – the better the driver to handle various situations they encounter. Your law requires 40 hours of supervised driving, California law requires 50 hours. I highly recommend teens take full advantage of this law if they want to increase their chances of survival during their teenage years of driving and beyond. Both laws require experience driving at night. Teens are more apt to be involved in a collision during the evening hours. Thanks to our law in California we saw a 24% drop in deaths among teen drivers.

4) Would raising the driving age make them any less the novice with their maturation? Explain.

My Answer: It’s assumed the older the wiser…the older, the more mature your decision making. But every teen is different. Some teens recognize for themselves whether they’re ready to handle driving at age 16, 17 or 18. Especially as they see their younger friends killed and/or injured in crashes due to reckless driving. This often makes many teens realize how precious and fragile life is – thus becoming more responsible.

5) Describe some of the carnage you have witnessed on the job or you have heard about, dealing with teenage drivers.

My Answer: Speed and/or driving under the influence – those are major factors in the crashes I’ve seen. In October of 2004 we had a crash involving three 17-year-olds males. All had been drinking as they celebrated the birthday of one of teens turning 17. In the evening hours they caused a minor collision then raced off to avoid being caught. While racing away they ran a red light and were struck broadside by a large truck who had the green light. In the impact the 17 year-old, whose birthday they were celebrating, was ejected. Due to their speed this caused a sling-shot effect thrusting the teen head first into a fire hydrant at the corner. Fire hydrants are made to break off at the base making them easier to repair when a vehicle runs into it – but in this case, the teen knocked over the fire hydrant with his head. Without getting too graphic in print – it basically knocked off the top of his head above his eyebrows and was of course killed.

Quite often, in crashes involving speed/street racing, these crashes often result in occupants being crushed beyond recognition. A recent crash involved an 18 year-old losing control, going off the roadway into trees and his car bursting into flames – the impact killed him first – not the resulting fire.

*What people don’t realize – vehicles are made for transportation only – not crashing. Only NASCARS are built for crashing. For every 10mph -this is equal to a one-story fall impact. An 80mph crash is equal to an 8 story fall. For every 10 mph over 50mph – you’ve doubled your chances of dying in a crash.

6) Do you think that better traffic safety laws should be enforced?

My Answer: All laws, especially traffic laws, are made for the “safety” of all motorists and pedestrians. When a problem (causing injury & death) is recognized – a law is made to stop this problem from causing more injury and death. When we ignore these laws – the result is either a citation, a collision, possible injury or death. We passed the cell phone law in California after traffic collision investigations found 60% of our crashes were cell phone related.

7) Before my accident, I thought, I won’t ever get in a car accident. That won’t ever happen to me. Do you think that most new inexperienced teen drivers are thinking the same thing?

My Answer: Exactly. I keep hearing people say teens think they’re invincible. But no matter what age, although we hear of others being involved in crashes, we never think it will happen to us – until it does. For teens, despite hearing about other teens being involved in crashes and dying, they think “they’ll” do better at handling a speeding vehicle – or “they’ll” be different and can handle drinking and driving – that shows immaturity with youth. But, I also see that same type of thought process among adults.

8) If there is one thing you would want all teen drivers to know, what would it be?

My Answer: One thing? Hmmm – sorry, how about one long statement. What I would tell teens is what I’ve seen and what I’ve experienced in my work -and in my own family.

REMEMBER the following: The number one cause of death for teens is traffic collisions. But most will die as passengers. Think of your life, your safety. NEVER get into a car with someone who is reckless, sleepy or under the influence of any drug, especially alcohol. ANY amount of alcohol consumed, no matter what age, should be considered dangerous behind the wheel. Remember that alcohol is a drug – a depressant. On the very first sip of alcohol it’s in your blood system within 6 seconds – immediately impairing your reaction time and judgment. Two important things you need to be a good driver…or operate any machinery.

Don’t risk and/or ruin your life like others before you – STAY AWAY FROM ALL DRUGS. You only have one brain and one body – protect them.

The worse vehicle to drive: motorcycles! No protection except a full helmet. But, if you strike an object with your torso you will most likely die, lose a limb or become paralyzed. To increase your chances of survival – follow laws made for your safety – wear your seat belts and be 100% alert behind the wheel. Also realize that being sleepy behind the wheel is just as dangerous as driving under the influence. Both conditions cause “fixation” – as you look at an object, a tree or bicyclist, you’ll drive right into that object without realizing it. The most dangerous of all roadway areas “intersections” – this is due to red light runners and STOP sign runners. In working for a police and fire department – our number one 9-1-1 call – “traffic collisions”. Be alert – be safe! Most of the collisions EMS respond to occur at intersections.

The dangers I’ve seen are professional and personal – my father was killed as a pedestrian by a DUI driver on June 5, 1992 – so I know what it’s like to lose someone you love. (The DUI driver was a 23 year-old man – it was his 4th DUI arrest when he killed my father and was sentenced to a mere 4 years in prison.) Then on February 10, 2005 my daughter was hit by a DUI driver. But, because my daughter was alert and saw her coming she was able to steer away from a “direct side impact” and suffered minor injuries. (This DUI driver was a 17 year-old female driver, with no license or insurance. This DUI driver is now prevented from getting a driver’s license until age 21.) A year after this crash my daughter graduated from paramedic school, and a month later married a young man she met prior to paramedic prep school. Both are paramedics and love their jobs. Saving lives runs in the family.

9) Should Driver’s Ed be offered in school?

My Answer: YES! Some teens wait until they’re 18 so they don’t have to take a driver education course. That is most often a fatal mistake. That means they have little or no experience when it comes to driving. A driver education course should be mandatory. Videos and experienced speakers, like myself and law enforcement, can make a big difference in educating teens on the real dangers of our roadways.

I’m very passionate about saving lives – so my answers were probably longer than you wanted. But I hope my information is helpful.

One more comment – as parents, we’d like to see our children grow up to achieve their goals, career and/or marry. I’ve met many-many-many parents who never got to see their children get past their teens due to deaths involving traffic collisions. Losing a child is one of the worst things a person can experience.

Thank you very much for contacting me. I am honored you contacted me. I hope my answers provide an eye-opening impact in “driving home” the message. Below is some additional data on Teen Driving.

Most Sincerely & Stay Safe,

Monica Zech

Here is some research information regarding teen driving:

First note the following research:

Crash patterns for teen drivers are alarming. Studies regularly show that:

  • Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among teens in the United States. In California alone, nearly 20,000 teen drivers are injured or killed every year.
  • Teen drivers are in a far higher proportion of crashes than expected, given their relatively small percentage of the entire driving population.
  • Teen fatal crashes take place far more commonly during late night hours than expected, given their relatively limited nighttime driving.
  • Teen passengers are at a far greater risk in vehicles driven by other teen drivers than in vehicles driven by older, more experienced drivers.

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TEXTING While Driving Is Dangerous & Illegal

Posted on 02 January 2009 by Monica Zech

Texting is now illegal while driving

Text messaging is now illegal in the state of California. Texting is now a violation of the state vehicle code, subjecting drivers caught writing them or reading them to a $20 fine for the first offense and $50 for repeat offenses.

The new law is the handiwork of state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who also wrote the hands-free cell phone legislation that went into effect July 1, 2008. In just under six months, the California Highway Patrol has handed out 45,000 citations to violators of that law, and the CHP is expected to have its hands full trying to keep up with motorists who have their hands full of tiny QWERTY keyboards, thumbing their way down the open road.

It took Simitian six years to get hands-free calling through the Legislature and onto California’s roadways, but he says he encountered almost no resistance to the no-texting law. “It’s really the worst of all possible worlds,” Simitian said of texting, which has grown increasingly popular with supposedly grown-up drivers. “Eyes off the road, and hands off the wheel. That’s a dangerous combination for all of us, not just the people who are texting.”

Strictly speaking, it’s still not illegal to drive a vehicle in California while you are, say, applying mascara, or shaving your legs, or even worshipping that pine-scented air freshener on the dashboard.

 “Nowhere in the vehicle code does it say you cannot put your makeup on, or read the newspaper, or do a thousand other things,” said Sgt. Paul Woo of the San Jose Police Department’s traffic enforcement unit. “But if that causes you to drive unsafely, then yes, you could be cited.”

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What If You Killed Your Best Friend Driving Under The Influence?

Posted on 25 September 2008 by Monica Zech

Visit this young man’s website to hear his story

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Blind Spots & SUV’s – Attention Parents!

Posted on 25 June 2007 by Monica Zech

Blind spots are a deadly flaw for most SUVs

‘There’s actually an epidemic going on right now,’ safety activist warns

By Herb Weisbaum
Updated: 9:58 a.m. PT May 22, 2007

How many kids can sit behind an SUV without being seen by the driver in the rearview mirrors? This is not a trick question. In fact, knowing the answer could save a child’s life.

According to the consumer group Kids and Cars, as many as 62 children could be in that blind zone and you’d never know it. And that’s a huge problem.

Your driveway is the last place you’d expect a child to get hit by a car. But Janette Fennell, president of Kids and Cars, says at least 100 children are killed there each year in backover accidents. Another 2,400 children are seriously injured this way each year.

It happened just last week in Covington, Wash., near Seattle. Mariana Lopez, an 18-month old girl, was accidentally run over as her aunt backed up her Ford F-150 pickup — a half-ton vehicle with a huge rear blind zone. The aunt couldn’t see the toddler, who was no higher than the tire.

“People need to understand that there’s actually an epidemic going on right now,” Fennell says. “Two children every week are dying because they can’t be seen behind these larger vehicles that we’re driving.”

Like Mariana, most of the victims are toddlers 12 to 23 months old. They have just learned to walk and often try to follow mom, dad or some other relative to the vehicle. They have no concept of the danger involved.

The fact that it’s usually a family member behind the wheel makes this a tragedy within a tragedy.

Bigger cars are taking a tragic toll
“The problem has gotten worse with the increased popularity of SUVs, pickup trucks and minivans as family vehicles,” says Mike Quincy, an automotive expert with Consumer Reports. “Some of the blind spots are incredible.”

During the last few years, Consumer Reports measured the blind zones behind hundreds of vehicles using both short and tall drivers. Here’s the range they found for each category:

Sedans: 12 feet to 24 feet
Minivans: 15 feet to 26 feet
Sport Utility Vehicles: 13 feet to 29 feet
Pickup trucks: 23 feet to 35 feet
With some of these large pickups, the blind zone can be longer than the driveway.

The 2006 Jeep Commander Limited had the biggest blind spot of any vehicle Consumer Reports tested – a stunning 69 feet with a short driver. With an optional backup camera, that huge blind spot is nearly eliminated.

Is federal action needed to cut the tragic toll?
This may surprise you, but there is no federal standard for rear visibility. Last week, the “Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007” (S.694) passed the Senate Commerce Committee and is now headed to the full Senate for a vote.

The bill, which covers a number of automotive safety issues, would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to create rules that would expand the required field of vision behind a vehicle.

The bill does not say how this would be accomplished; that would be worked out in the rulemaking process. But it does list some possible options, including additional mirrors, sensors and cameras.

S.694 would also require the Department of Transportation to establish a database of injuries and deaths caused by non-traffic, not-crash accidents. Currently, no federal agency tracks them.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents nine of the major car companies, supports the bill.

“We think it advances safety,” says spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist. “It’s good public policy and good for children. We think all of this makes a lot of sense.”

There’s no need to wait for Congress
Backup cameras are now available — standard or as options — on a number of large vehicles. With that camera the big blind spot in the rear disappears. Some of the safety systems also have sensors that set off an alarm if something is back there.

Janette Fennell, the Kansas mom who founded Kids and Cars, drives an SUV with a built-in backup camera. “I’d never drive a car that doesn’t have it,” she told me.

As soon as she puts her car in reverse the camera comes on and automatically shows what’s behind her vehicle in the dashboard navigation screen.

You can also get aftermarket cameras and sensors. Consumer Reports recently tested the VR3 from Virtual Reality Video Labs (under $150). The editors say the wireless unit is easy to install. “Its effective enough to be an alternative to factory systems,” they say.

According to Kids and Cars, 60 children were killed last year in frontover accidents. That’s more than one child every week.

Many people who know about the rear blind spot back their vehicles into the driveway. They figure they’ll be able to see anything in front of them as they pull forward. But backing into the driveway does not eliminate the danger.

“Some of the vehicles are so large and you’re so high off the ground that you can’t see little ones in front of the vehicle,” Fennell warns.

That’s what happened to 8-year old Douglas Bransom one year ago this week.

“Douglas was the cautious one,” his father, Phil Bransom, told me. “He would always ask if he could cross the street.”

Douglas was walking home on the sidewalk in a quiet neighborhood in West Linn, Oregon. Phil Bransom thinks his son dropped a toy at the top of a neighbor’s driveway and bent down to pick it up, just as the neighbor was moving his SUV forward.

Douglas was hit and dragged into the street. He died at the scene.

“It happens so fast,” Douglas Bransom’s dad says. “It only takes a second for your life to change forever.”

Phil Bransom says technology alone won’t solve this problem. He says people need to know where their children are when they get into their car.

“Just take the time to slow down,” he says. “Take time to think about your child being in or around the car.”

Bransom always walks around his vehicle and looks around for neighborhood kids before getting behind the wheel. He knows what can happen if he doesn’t.

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Grossmont Healthcare Safety Award Given To Monica Zech

Posted on 27 April 2007 by Monica Zech

News from the Grossmont Healthcare District

The Grossmont Healthcare District (GHD), a public agency that supports health-related community programs and services in San Diego’s East County region, has honored five East County residents with a 2007 Healthcare Hero Award.

The honorees were recognized for their efforts to advance the delivery of quality healthcare by volunteering their time beyond normal job responsibilities, according to Bob Yarris, GHD board member who conceived the awards program and also serves on the board’s Public Relations & Outreach Committee, which coordinates the annual awards program.

“We are proud to honor these unsung healthcare heroes for their inspirational, extraordinary care and selfless dedication who go the extra mile in volunteer service,” said Yarris. “In measurable outcomes, their efforts have improved the quality of life for all East County residents, and for that we are very grateful.”

Among those receiving a Grossmont Healthcare District 2007 Healthcare Hero Award:

*Monica Zech of La Mesa extends her job as public information officer and safety educator for the City of El Cajon with frequent appearances to community groups during her off-hours; nights, weekends and even using her vacation days to lecture in the East County and throughout San Diego County. Monica lectures on injury prevention such as fire safety – traffic safety and disaster preparedness…”safety” is Monica’s passion!

East County residents were invited to submit names of possible award recipients and more than 40 nominations were received, according to Gloria Chadwick, GHD board member who serves as chair of the Public Relations & Outreach Committee.

“We were very impressed with every nominee, which made the selection process difficult and challenging,” Chadwick said. “We are looking forward to next year when we will again ask local residents for additional names of volunteers deserving this highly coveted recognition, as more people become aware of this annual awards program.”

Sponsors of the 2007 awards program included Grossmont Healthcare District, Sycuan Resort, Sharp Grossmont Hospital and SDG&E. Both award recipients and nominees were honored at a luncheon held on April 18, 2007, at Sycuan Resort. Carol LeBeau, KGTV-TV anchor and health reporter, served as emcee at the event.

The Grossmont Healthcare District (GHD), formed in 1952 to build and operate Grossmont Hospital, serves as landlord of the hospital, including ownership of the property and buildings on behalf of local taxpayers. The District is governed by a five-member board of directors, each elected to four-year terms, who represent nearly 500,000 people residing within the District’s 750 square miles in San Diego’s East County. In 1991, the District leased the hospital’s operation to Sharp HealthCare under a 30-year lease that runs through the year 2021. For more information about GHD, visit

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Gory Facts Of Driving DUI – Every 15 Minutes

Posted on 27 April 2007 by Monica Zech

A serious act: Gory details aim to deter students from driving while drunk by
Joshua Palmer
The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho
April 27, 2007

Apr. 27 – TWIN FALLS – He was too drunk to walk, let alone drive.

But Marcus Schaal, a senior at Twin Falls High School, didn’t realize his mistake until it was too late.

When he regained consciousness he noticed that Matt Hanchey, who was riding in the passenger seat, had been thrown through the windshield and onto the hood of the car. He was covered in blood and Schaal couldn’t get him to wake up.

When Schaal lumbered out ofhis vehicle he saw two girls sitting motionless inside the car he had slammed into.

It was a nightmare, but fortunately it was only an act.

The act was part of an event Thursday afternoon at Twin Falls High School to remind students about the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

“Each year we do something called “Every 15 Minutes, “which is recognized all over Idaho and other states to remind us that basically every 15 minutes someone is killed in a drunk-driving accident, ” said Abby McNeley, student body vice president. “But this year we decided to do something different and show students how fast drinking and driving can take someone’s life.”

The scene was acted out by Twin Falls High School seniors as well as Twin Falls police and fire departments. A Life Flight helicopter was even called in to carry away one of the ‘injured’ passengers.

Despite the real-life props andspecial effects, nobody could overlook the gruesome detail of the scene.

“That was intentional because, in a way, we want this to have some shock value,” said Staff Sgt. Dennis Pullin. “Senior graduation is coming up soon, and we hope that they will know how real this can be.”

For some students, the sight of a peer lying ‘dead’ on the hood of a car seemed a little exaggerated, but for others it was an awakening to the dangers of driving while under the influence. However, most students seemed to grasp the significance of the scene when Schaal was handcuffed and driven away in the back of a police car.

“It definitely changed the way I thought about things like this,” said Chelsea Abramowski, a senior at Twin Falls High school. “I think it was really a good experience for us — especially because we will have prom soon and it might change some people’s minds about drinking and driving.”

Times-News writer Joshua Palmer covers education. He can be reached at [email protected] or at (208) 420-0526.

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The Real-Life Dangers of Texting and Driving!

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