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New year-long statewide campaign will educate drivers on new distracted driving law

States take action to stop distracted driving
Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-15 22:43:57-05

PHOENIX — It has been almost one year since Governor Doug Ducey passed a texting and driving ban in Arizona. But, while it is now illegal to be on your phone behind the wheel, drivers will only get a warning if they are pulled over.

The reason: lawmakers at the State Capitol said they wanted an education period. But, many ABC15 viewers have contacted our Operation Safe Roads team asking where is that education? What is actually being done to save lives?

Soon, you will start seeing and hearing a new year-long campaign statewide. It puts a face and a name to the consequences of cell phone use while on the road.

"Little did we know, it was the last time we would see her alive," said a father to the camera. The Wooden family shares how their decision took the life of 12-year-old Ashley.

The hope is that their expression of emotion and the overwhelming loss will connect with an audience - pushing them to disconnect while driving.

"I'm hoping that these commercials and these PSAs really help people understand the severity and the dangers that come along with that," said President and CEO of the Arizona Chapter of the National Safety Council Rick Murray. "And hopefully it puts them in the spot of these people who are going through such tragedy in their lives."

Murray said as technology has advanced and even more of those advancements are placed in our cars, the death toll on our roadways have risen too.

According to AAA Arizona, more than 300 people are killed in our state and more than 20,000 are hurt because of distracted drivers each year. It is now the number one reason behind traffic deaths and that means distracted driving kills more than alcohol.

"When we looked at DUI, it's taken a generation really to change the behavior of driving while intoxicated," Murray described. "We really are at that beginning stage of trying to change behaviors with technology and distracted driving, as well."

Arizona has had a reputation for many years about being the toughest on DUI offenders with stiff fines and jail time. Murray believes it is going to take an approach like that to turn this generation of technology in a safer direction.

"What we need to see is greater penalties to make it really stick and make it hurt the fact that someone was distracted driving," Murray said.

But, until that warning period is over January of 2021, Murray hopes this campaign can be the start to change right now and the education needed to save lives.

Do you have a road issue or question for the Operation Safe Roads team? You can give us a call at 833-AZROADS or email roads@abc15.com.