Could "hands-free" ordinance be helping reduce deadly crashes in Oro Valley?

Could hands-free ordinances help reduce crashes?
Posted at 5:58 PM, Aug 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-14 09:20:54-04

In the town of Oro Valley, north of Tucson, it's against the law to have your cell phone in your hand when you're driving, and the ordinance could be saving lives.

Brendan Lyons was a firefighter until a distracted driver crashed into his bike.

"I was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury," said Lyons, now executive director of Look! Save a Life. "All it took was for him to look down and see who was calling, and by the time he looked up, I was being launched off his vehicle."  

FULL SECTION: Operation Safe Roads

The town of about 45,000 people is taking action to reduce crashes like Lyons' and deaths.  

Oro Valley passed a "hands-free" distracted driving ordinance, which took effect in early 2017. Drivers are not allowed to use cell phones or other mobile devices unless they have a Bluetooth or other hands-free device. They are also allowed to do a single-finger touch or swipe movements on devices mounted to the vehicle.

"People of been driving distracted since there was an automobile," Police Chief Daniel Sharp said, "but we didn't see this big uptick in the crashes the fatal accidents until the advent of the cell phone and texting."

Arizona remains one of the most lenient states in the nation on cell phone use behind the wheel. Oro Valley is one of at least 11 cities, and towns and two counties have passed tougher rules. Oro Valley police officers have issued 150 tickets under the ordinance, and the minimum fine is $50.

"It's not hard, because if somebody's got the device in their hand, that's the violation," Sharp said.

Chief Sharp said in 2016 there were four deadly car crashes in Oro Valley, but since the distracted driving ordinance, there has been zero.