Tucson looking to strengthen hands free ordinance, help reduce number of car/pedestrian deaths

Tucson looking to strengthen hands free ordinance, help reduce number of car/pedestrian deaths
(Source: Town of Oro Valley)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson city leaders will look to strengthen its hands free ordinance during a debate scheduled at its first meeting of the new year Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.

When the City Council passed its hands free ordinance on March 21, 2017, it included a six-month study period before deciding whether to make it a primary offense.

The current ordinance makes using a cell phone or electronic device in a moving vehicle a secondary offense.

"Police will tell you it's virtually worthless as a secondary offense," said Steve Kozachik, Ward VI city council member.

Sixty people died on Tucson's city streets in 2017 in bicycle crashes, motorcycle wrecks, car accidents and pedestrian fatalities.

The most conspicuous of those numbers is the 25 people who died as a result of a car/pedestrian accident. That's a record for Tucson and one which deserves attention.

"60 deaths," said Kozachik. "To me that's carnage."

Kozachik says a tougher ban on hand held devices is only one of several tactics Tucson needs to take to help alleviate the problem.

Better street lighting is one, delayed left turns is another.

Thousands of street lights have been changed to LED bulbs which adhere to the Dark Skies Initiative, but also provide better lighting for cheaper prices. It's a program which is paying for itself but still has a way to go.

There is a left turn study being conducted by the Tucson Department of Transportation, which could result in some intersections becoming safer.

It's a debate over safety versus traffic movement. But if the council passes the hands free ordinance, it will make driving around southern Arizona more consistent.

Both Oro Valley and Pima County already have the tighter restrictions. Tucson is playing catch up.

"We're the outlier," Kozachik said. "Police chiefs all over the country will say this is a tool we need in our tool box."

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