A child died and a young woman’s life dramatically changed over a phone call while driving. And each story is more horrible than the last.
Our addictions to cell phones and other electronic gadgets are very real and a sign of the times. But their use while driving is killing us.
Oro Valley has passed a “hands free” law which took effect January 6, 2017, and it simply states, while driving in Oro Valley it is illegal to have a cell phone or any portable electronic device designed to engage in calls, texting, imaging or data in your hand. Police officers now are able to stop you for that offense, and when they do, they’ll tell you why Oro Valley has taken the steps to ensure a higher level of driver safety for its residents. They will tell you why it’s dangerous. They won’t be at your window to give you a citation or “raise revenue” as some have argued is the reason for implementing the law.
This is a tough campaign for law enforcement, politicians, corporate leaders and communities.
Everybody knows that when you take your mind off driving while driving, bad things can happen. It’s happened to you. You catch yourself in mid-swerve, perhaps not knowing that five seconds looking at a text at 45 miles per hour will carry you the length of a football field. You, an athlete training in a bike lane or neighbor could be killed. Was the text worth it? No.
But how is the problem solved? Arizona has no distracted driving law. State lawmakers have tried for years. They will try again this year.
I spoke briefly with Governor Ducey in mid-January about the Oro Valley law that he said he was aware of. I asked what he tells his sons about driving and cell phones. He said: “Put down the phone.”
Yes, that’s the goal. And here’s the rub. It’s not the technology. It’s our behavior. Newly elected Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier, while admitting distracted driving is a huge public safety concern, said the issue is not on his agenda. His department’s $6 million deficit is his focus.
Note to the Sheriff: Saving lives saves money. It costs millions to investigate distracted driving deaths. The Tucson City Council took up the issue of “hands free” driving and declined. Tucson is sticking with its “no texting law,” which is essentially unenforceable and few tickets are issued.
Oro Valley will continue to keep its people safe, and try to convince Tucson, Marana, Sahuarita and the state to effectively keep us all safe with an enforceable law. Until then, as Governor Ducey suggests, let’s put our phones down.
By Vice Mayor Lou Waters – Explorer Newspaper, 2/15/17