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Pushing for statewide laws on distracted driving

Posted at 5:33 PM, Jan 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-10 18:46:49-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — A Salt River Police officer died last night after a car hit him. The driver of that car was texting and driving. Arizona State Troopers say Officer Clayton Townsend was in the middle of a traffic stop when a different car hit and killed him. That driver, 40-year-old Jerry Sanstead, from Scottsdale, told investigators he was texting.

Brendan Lyons, with the organization Look! Save A Life, wants the state to take more action on enacting laws that prohibit distracted driving.

"The state refused to do anything back in 2013 when DPS officer Timothy Hawkins was struck and killed. And now, we have another police officer of Salt River Police Department, who was killed last night at the hands of a texting motorist who admittedly swerved across two lanes of traffic killing this officer easily. And its absolutely heart-wrenching and it should not be tolerated and our state must do more," said Lyons.

Distractions take many forms, but, Lyons says we have to understand the risks involved and put the phone down.

"Distractions are real. Everyday distracted driving kills, and families are left to bare the burdens of these preventable loses. Distracted driving is defined as any thing that takes your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and your mind off the task of driving. Humans cannot operate a motor vehicle without doing risk to public safety while multi-tasking," said Lyons.

To date 20 jurisdictions throughout Arizona have distracted driving ordinances. And last night, the City of Glendale unanimously adopted a "hands-free" ordinance as a primary offense.

"What's ridiculous is that it shouldn't be up to local jurisdictions to come up with this ordinance. There should be the call of the state legislature. And because this is the state's failure to act, this is why local jurisdictions are taking it upon themselves," said Lyons.

Arizona is one of three states, along with Missouri and Montana, in which texting and driving are not banned for some drivers. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Arizona and Missouri have texting bans for novice drivers, but not a ban for all drivers.

"Whether there's a law in place or not, a moments distraction can be a lifetime of regret. Stay off your cell phone while driving," said Lyons.