Pima County tightens hands-free ordinance

Published: May. 2, 2017 at 7:15 PM MST|Updated: May. 3, 2017 at 7:46 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Pima County voted by a narrow 3-2 margin to toughen its "hands free" while driving ordinance.

Last year, the county passed an ordinance which made texting while driving a "secondary" offense. That meant sheriff's deputies would have to stop a motorist for another offense before they could be cited for violating the hands-free ordinance.

Not so now.

The county changed its ordinance to a "primary offense."

That means a deputy can stop a motorist seen using a cell phone or other device while driving. The fine for the first offense is $100.

It was already illegal to text and drive in the county. Now, drivers cannot use any handheld electronic device while driving unless they are using a hands-free set-up.

The new law goes into effect June 1.

The ordinance follows one passed three months ago in Oro Valley, which has resulted in 766 warnings.

Oro Valley police are not citing motorists yet, but will be soon as the grace period is lifted in the coming months.

It also makes the hand free ordinances more uniform in the Tucson valley.

Only Oro Valley and now Pima County treat texting and driving as a primary offense. While Tucson continues to have an ordinance calling it a secondary offense.

It's expected Tucson will revisit its ordinance in the next few months and the pressure to toughen the ordinance will be intense.

That was evident in the county chambers Tuesday morning, May 2, where several people told stories of loved ones who were killed in accidents caused by distracted drivers.

The county board also heard from a Utah man who killed two scientists when his car drifted across the center line while texting and driving, hitting an oncoming car head-on.

"It's something I struggle with every day," Reggie Shaw said. "That choice, that decision I made to use my cell phone while I drove, ended those two men's lives."

District 1 Supervisor Ally Miller was one of the three who voted in favor of the ordinance.

"We all know it's a problem, we're all addicted to our cell phones," she said. "We have to have laws enacted so there is enforcement."

Miller was joined by Sharon Bronson and Richard Elias in voting for the ordinance. Ramón Valadez and Steve Christy opposed.

Last week, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a texting law that prohibits teenagers from using hand-held devices for six months after getting their driver's license.

It was a baby step but the first step taken by Arizona to ban distracted driving.

The revised ordinance is below:

"A person may not use a handheld electronic device while operating a motor vehicle on a street or highway unless that device is specifically designed or configured to allow hands-free use and is used in that manner."

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