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Tucson’s texting and driving ban hard to enforce

Distracted driving, including texting while driving, causes thousands of crashes each year in Arizona. The Department of Public Safety reported that distracted driving caused 1,600 of the 10,000 accidents in the state between November 2013 and April 2014. Ten of these distracted driving accidents led to fatalities. To combat this problem and with the absence of a statewide ban, Tucson has prohibited texting and driving within its limits, and police officers can stop a driver suspected of texting, e-mailing or sending an instant message while driving.

The law is difficult to enforce, however. The City has issued only 50 citations for this violation in two years. Police have not received specialized training on identifying a driver who is texting. They also concentrate primarily on enforcing other traffic laws.

A Tucson police officer said that he does not stop a motorist for holding a cellphone because it is difficult to prove that the person was using it at a specific time. Most officers will stop a driver only when the car is drifting into other lanes, straddling the lines or violating other traffic rules, according to this officer. Admissions are usually required for prosecution under this ban.

Arizona is one of two states that have no primary ban. In addition, since 2007, there have been unsuccessful legislative attempts to impose age limits and impose stricter fines.

A 2010 Insurance Institute of Highway Safety study nonetheless found that texting and driving bans may not be effective in reducing car accidents. While drivers are using their phones less, there is insufficient enforcement and education to make the bans effective and the risk of accidents has not decreased. According to the IIHS, these bans may compound driver inattention when they try to hide their electronic devices from police while driving.

However, the University of Alabama recently published a study finding that these bans are more effective when the police are permitted to stop a driver for texting as a primary violation. These bans led to a three percent reduction in traffic deaths for all age groups, according to the study.

As Arizona seeks a solution, this problem persists. Cellphone use was a factor in over 100 highway accidents during a six-month period, according to a recent DPS report. Victims of these accidents should understand their legal options when it comes to seeking compensation for accident-related expenses.

Source: Arizona Daily Star, “City’s texting-while-driving law results in few tickets,” Nicole Thill, Aug. 3, 2014

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