Wise up 'stupid motorists': Deputies will enforce flooded wash law
PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Raging waters, big barricades and careless drivers. Scenes like those are a recipe for danger, disaster and possibly death. We see them almost daily during monsoon. Now, drivers in Pima County have another reason to steer clear of flooded roadways and washes.
The story revolves around Arizona's "stupid motorist law" and the common complaint it's never enforced.
Is it? 9 On Your Side called around to check. 9 on Your Side called a dozen local rescue and law enforcement agencies and found just two cases locally in recent years. DPS and Avra Valley Fire District did not fulfill 9 On Your Side's request for records.
Sgt. Costaki Manoleas with the Pima County Sheriff's Department said this particular statute is not used as much as the department would like it to.
"If they do drive around the sign and they do get stuck in the wash, it's going to cost them a little more money," said Manoleas.
There could be a fine up to $2,000 to pay for your rescue, as allowed for under the law.
What's changed? A form that deputies now fill out after a rescue that meets the requirements of the "stupid motorist law." The simple one-page form is a record of the number of people and hours emergency responders spent at the scene of a swift water rescue.
"So we can actually see what it is, how much money we actually spent, how much time was spent to rescue an individual and then present this document to the courts and to the county attorney," he said.
The standardized process and the form didn't exist before.
But on drenched days during monsoon, we've heard officers often don't have the time.
"Are there going to be cases where they don't have time to do it right, then, absolutely," said Manoleas. "But essentially they should be able to fill this form out if not right then before they go home."
The sheriff's department will turn the forms over to the Pima County Attorney's Office with the case against the driver. County attorney Barbara LaWall tells 9 On Your Side her office will accept those forms then help the sheriff's department recover the cost of rescues, when the law allows for it.
The state statute requires a driver to be convicted of reckless driving before a rescue agency can go after a driver for the cost of a rescue.