The Pumpkin Patch Crawl is getting an early start on Highway 101.

Every year for the last 18 years or so, Jim Groverman of Petaluma has created a pumpkin patch in north Petaluma between Stony Point Road and 101. Families by the hundreds, if not thousands, flock to his patch to find the right pumpkin for Halloween and to try to get through his corn maze.

The patch doesn’t open until Friday, Sept. 30, but the patch already is causing weekend traffic on 101 to slow to a crawl. At about noon last Sunday, southbound 101 was backed up from the pumpkin patch over the Cotati Grade to Highway 116. Usually, drivers and passengers are gawking at the crowds at the patch, but the patch now is empty, except for the corn and pumpkins growing.

Groverman says he thinks traffic will improve once Caltrans finishes widening the highway in front of his patch. But until then he says drivers need to watch out for those slowing in front of them.

CHP Officer Jon Sloat said last year that CHP stats for past years showed an average increase of 15 to 18 accidents along 101 between Santa Rosa Avenue and Petaluma Boulevard North during September and October. The assumption is that many of those accidents were related to pumpkin-patch rubbernecking.

Sloat emphasized that “it is not the pumpkin patch causing collisions. It is the distracted driver.”

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