Distracted driving summit fights for uniform state laws

Distracted driving summit fights for uniform state laws

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Community leaders rolled into Phoenix to fight distracted driving Wednesday.

They are working to convince lawmakers to join much of the country, as Arizona is one of only four states without a blanket driver texting ban.

Groups like Banner University Medical Center were present, with wild imagery in their booth of a skeleton at the wheel - showing how one hand on your phone is one less hand on the wheel.

"Unfortunately, some with grave injuries - and even those who have died," said Jenny Meyerson, who works in the trauma room. "I would love all of our local schools - charter schools, private schools, public schools - to have a mandated program where everybody knows about the importance of not texting while you're driving."

That seemed to be the virtual message today, and it appeared to be resonating loud and clear for those who showed up in Phoenix for the  Arizona Distracted Driving Summit at the state capitol.

Organizers of Wednesday's event hope to change lawmakers' minds. And people in attendance, of all ages, want lawmakers to listen.

It's problematic to teens like Keegan Smith that there are no statewide penalties for those actions, and that you'd have to be in one of only a handful of Arizona communities to be breaking the law.

"I think it's one of the biggest problems," said Smith, who is president of the Sahuarita Teen Advisory Council. "We've had a fair share of car accidents within our small town of less than 30,000 people."

"I'm grateful to the leadership of our council to pass that. I'd like to see this move on and up to a statewide effort so we're able to do this on a statewide basis," said Oro Valley Police Department Chief Daniel Sharp.

Oro Valley went completely hands-free, while cities like Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, San Luis, Sedona, Tempe, and Yuma have some form of distracted driving legislation, according to Oro Valley police officers.  Pima County and Coconino County also have anti-texting and driving laws.

It means more confusion about what laws apply where, and less uniformity in the state.

Chief Sharp is trying not to be the bad guy on the roads.

"We're not looking to try to figure out a way to write tickets," he said. "The idea is if we can make a stop, and we can educate, we can begin that idea of changing that culture and changing those habits."

It is why Smith hopes for the best, that state lawmakers won't wait for the worst. "Having those accidents happen within our community from somebody that's texting while driving hits a lot closer to home."

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