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Pima County tightens up distracted driving ordinance

Posted at 10:13 AM, May 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-02 21:28:04-04

Is catching that text message while you're driving worth a hundred dollar ticket?  That's the cost of just a first offense under the new law Pima County Supervisors passed Tuesday.      

It says drivers must use their phone hands-free.  Just touching your phone is enough to get you pulled over. The hope is the law will reduce distracted driving that causes wrecks---and wrecks lives.

Near LaCholla and Orange Grove, there is a ghost bike a monument built around the skeleton frame of a bicycle.  It remembers Daniel Wilson, hit by a distracted driver there almost two years ago.  Now Pima County has passed a new county law designed to make drivers drop their cel phones and concentrate on what their driving

Daniel Wilson's death, drove his mother Karen to urge county supervisors to make drivers let go of their phones.

Arlene Ozbern urged supervisors to pass a law that might protect other mothers from what a distracted driver did to her daughter Barbara.

She says, “She should have died that day.  She suffered for the next five months. If I want to visit her now I have to go to Marana mortuary and that's where I can go visit her grave."

Pima's new law says if you handle your phone you are in for a hundred dollar ticket. You'll need to use speaker phone, bluetooth or a wired headset with microphone.  

Tucson's hands free law requires police to see you break another traffic law before they ticket you. But for Pima County just seeing you handle the phone is enough for a ticket.

 Pima County's law is most like the law Oro Valley used for the last three months.

Oro Valley stopped and warned about 760 drivers.  Now Oro Valley Police Lt. Chris Olson says compliance is good.

"We're having a harder time finding people violating the ordinance.  Before the ordinance we saw cell phones in hands.  We didn't see too many car mounts.  We didn't see too many Bluetooth devices but I'll tell you in the three months we've been doing it we're seeing a lot more of those."

And ordinance backers hope the new law will lead to fewer lives wrecked by electronic distraction.

Some exemptions still remain. You will be allowed to use your phone:

  • Calling 911 for an emergency
  • If you're activating or deactivating hands-free services
  • If you're a school bus or transit operator
  • If you're a member of law enforcement or emergency medical personnel

Tucson's ordinance is in effect now.  Pima County's takes effect June 1st.