TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Tucson is moving closer to a tougher law against distracted driving amid concerns it could be used for racially oriented traffic stops
The council may adopt a law that doesn't just ban texting. It would ban having any electronic device in your hand while you drive....and remove the old rule that allowed phone use when you're stopped at a light.
The proposed law's designed to reduce the wiggle room when a driver tells police, I wasn't texting, I was doing something else on the phone.
If council passes the ordinance the rule would be no electronics in your hand at all while you're driving and that covers more than just phones. It includes things like GPS and music players.
The city's old law allowed texting if you're stopped. The new proposal says hands off the electronics even if you're stopped unless you're parked off the road altogether.
Councilmember Steve Kozachik has pressed for the tougher law. We asked him what about other driving distractions, like eating while driving.
He says, “The sad reality is that technology has outpaced the ability of the law to keep up with what people do in their cars. Ten years ago you wouldn't have even thought about having a phone in your hand. Now it's not only a phone but GPS and tablets and all the above and so we're just trying to keep up with the technology.”
It's not all that hard or expensive to go hands free. You do not need a fancy car stereo that will connect to your phone. You don't really need to mess with a fussy bluetooth earpiece. In a lot of cases the simplest solution is to just get a five dollar headset that has a built in microphone. You just have to remember when you're driving you can only use one ear.
A similar ordinance just took effect in Oro Valley, a little ahead of Tucson's hope for a coordinated roll-out of a hands free law consistent across the cities and county.
Right now the plan calls for a fifty dollar fine for the first offense, 100 for the second and two hundred for the third. If you're breaking the law and cause a wreck the fine would be 250
Councilmember Richard Fimbres asked concentrating on electronic devices will really stop distracted driving.
"These type of distractions include texting, using a smartphone or cellphone, eating or drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, including maps, using a navigation system, watching a video, adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player. Are we gonna ban all these things?”
Fimbres and Councilmember Regina Romero worried low income drivers will have trouble getting the equipment they need to make phones hands free---and that police will use the law to racially profile as they make traffic stops.
To reduce that fear councilmembers agreed to make violating the proposed law a secondary infraction. That means police have to stop someone for another offense first.
Council members may vote on a revised proposal in a few weeks.