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It’s 2021 and with the change in calendar comes full implementation of Arizona’s ban against texting while driving. Actually, the law started nearly two years ago without teeth to enforce it, and hopefully it has had some effect already. Even at that, it was long overdue because of opposition for various reasons.

Now law enforcement officers in Pinal County and elsewhere can issue citations, not just warnings, if motorists are caught using a hand-held cellphone. Meanwhile, some communities have had their own bans.

State fines now can be $79 to $149 for a first offense, and up to $250 for subsequent violations.

As legislators dealt with the issue in past years, some wanted a broader prohibition of distracted driving. It is true that drivers sometimes are focused on such things as eating or their personal appearance. But banning such activity proved to be more difficult than focusing on cellphones. Of course, recent years have seen cellphone use become so widespread that it consumes people’s behavior too often, and not just when they are driving. Having an outright ban for a hand-held phone was a priority, because a broader, more vague law would be more difficult to enforce.

However, objections remained that the hard ban would discourage people from reporting emergencies. Nevertheless, Arizona was relatively late to the table on the ban.

Careful drivers learn what to watch for from others on the road. However, texting is especially dangerous and certainly has killed people who never saw it coming. Talking on the phone is less dangerous but has its own problems. Now, hands-free devices are more common.

The phase-in of Arizona’s law gave drivers plenty of warning. And, as we said, it no doubt has provided results already. Highways and streets often are crowded and dangerous. Banning hand-held phones and especially texting makes them somewhat safer, and that is something to be happy about and another reason to be rid of a tough 2020.

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