Council looks at hands-free cell phone ordinance

By: 
DARRELL JACKSON, Glendale Star Staff Writer

Glendale is poised to follow Surprise’s lead after City Council gave consensus to proceed with researching a new hands-free law within city limits.
Surprise enacted the toughest cell phone-use law for drivers in the Valley in September that prohibis talking or sending a text message, or otherwise using a hand-held communications device, while driving in city limits, unless the device is in hands-free mode.
“We are modeling our ordinance after Surprise’s ordinance because it is the most recent and most comprehensive,” Glendale Police Chief Rick St. John said.
The proposed law would be a primary offense, meaning police can pull over a driver if they suspect the driver is violating the law, even if the driver isn’t breaking any other driving laws. Public-safety personnel operating in their professional capacity are exempt.
“Even though my officers would be exempt, I tell them all the time that if they need to look on their phones or the computers in the vehicle, they need to pull to the side of the road,” St. John said.
Arizona does have a hands-free law, but it is minimal, which prohibits bad drivers and novice drivers under the age of 18 to use handheld devices while driving.
“We do not believe that the state law is restrictive enough and there are many other cities and towns that have already enacted an ordinance,” St. John said. “It would make using your handheld device a primary offense, which means officers can pull drivers over for using a handheld device and they do not need another offense to pull drivers over.”
Other cities in Arizona have passed more restrictive laws, including Surprise, Phoenix, Tucson and Oro Valley, as well as Pima and Coconino counties.
St. John said the fine would be up to $250 for the first offense, but would have a grace period if the law is approved.
“I would anticipate most of our contact with drivers over the first month or two would be warning to let drivers know that the law exists,” St. John said. “We would also have an ad campaign to get the word out that the law would be beginning.”
City Council was strongly in favor of the law, saying the time had come.
“This is long overdue as far as I am concerned,” Yucca District Councilmember Joyce Clark said. “Distracted driving is only going to increase and unless we make efforts to stop it, we will see more accidents on the roads.”
The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year with nearly 390,000 injuries occurring from accidents caused by texting and driving.
“I looked at the National Safety Council, which states that 3,916 teens will die this year while texting and driving and that alone makes me believe that we should ban texting and driving,” Cactus Councilmember Ian Hugh said.
City Council gave consensus for St. John to continue moving forward to review and create an ordinance based on the Surprise ordinance which will come back to council at a future meeting for a vote.

 

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