Arizona road safety advocates pushing for stricter texting ban while driving

Posted at 6:59 PM, Jun 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-02 18:12:06-04

Some lawmakers have called it "common sense legislation." Road safety advocates have been working to get a texting ban law on state books for the last decade, but every year the effort has failed.

Now, Arizona is just one of two states that does not have a specific law banning texting while driving in place. Those who have shot down the effort argue the state's distracted driving law already covers a texting ban, but road safety advocates feel that does not go far enough.

According to the National Safety Council, one out of every four car crashes in the United States is caused by texting and driving.

Becca Cook happened to be a victim of one of them. Cook was injured by a distracted driver on the Loop 101 near Guadalupe road in Tempe in December 2015.  

After suffering severe injuries, she thought her life was over. She thought she would never be able to enjoy the outdoors again, yet determined to get through it; Cook managed to climb to the top of Camelback Mountain this morning.  

"Even so much as a year ago, I was told I'd likely have a permanent limp and things like this would not be possible again. So here I am today, I made it to the top of Camelback Mountain," Cook said.

She described the mountain as her "happy place" that she thought she would never be able to return to.

Now as she celebrates her accomplishment, Cook said what still hurts more than the injuries was knowing that the man accused of hitting her got away with a simple citation since there were no laws banning texting and driving.

Cook said witnesses at the accident scene had told authorities investigating the crash they had seen the man on his phone while driving.

"There's no Facebook post, no text message, no phone call, no channel surfing on the radio that's worth that. That wouldn't just ruin the life of the person that you injured or killed, it would ruin your life as well," said Cook.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey did sign a law into effect last year that put a texting ban in place for teenage drivers as a secondary offense.

"We feel like it's baby steps that we're working toward at this point. We will take whatever we can get," said Jessica Hugdahl, the state director of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).

Hugdahl added that she did feel laws on the books, and stiff fines would help curb the dangerous behavior but stressed it all came down to personal responsibility.

"We can pass laws all day long, but until people choose to follow them, or take personal responsibility for their actions it's really tough, and it's a really tough law to enforce as well," said Hugdahl.

Road safety advocates plan to bring the law before state legislators again this year, hoping the 13th time may be the charm.

"Unfortunately there are too many people burying their loved ones, and it's devastating that something as simple as a cell phone can devastate an entire family. Our roadway injuries and fatalities are going up. Something needs to be done," added Hugdahl.

At least nine Arizona cities and two counties have passed a cell phone hands-free ordinance in their jurisdiction.