Surprise looking to ban texting while driving

Surprise looking to ban texting while driving
Posted at 5:38 AM, Jun 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-28 11:39:12-04

Arizona is just one of two states in the nation that has not taken action when it comes to texting and driving. 

Roughly nine cities and two counties have made bans locally, but there is no sweeping legislation. 

This has pushed some areas to fight for change in their own communities. 

FULL SECTION: Operation Safe Roads

Right now, that fight is happening in the West Valley with Surprise City Councilman Skip Hall. 

Hall said he felt the urge to make the move after attending a mock crash event at Willow Canyon High School. The football field turned into a terrifying crash scene involving students on their way to prom. The cause was distracted driving.

"It's about lives. It's about saving lives."

The ordinance introduced this month at a regularly scheduled city council meeting would make using a mobile device while driving a primary offense. 

"It's been overwhelmingly positive from the people that have said - 'It's about time we do something like this,'" Hall explained. 

The council was briefed on the ordinance plan by Surprise Police Department Chief Terry Young.

"We don't have to have other bad driving behaviors. If the officer sees this going on, they can use that as the reason to stop that driver and have a conversation."

Chief Young said before passing out a $250 citation, he hopes talking to drivers will change their behavior. 

He said he understands that if it passes, what is expected of a driver may be confusing. 

"There are drivers that don't drive in our city very often," Chief Young explained. "And they come from other cities and when it's not a state law and each city got its own sort of set of rules, it might be appropriate to just have that conversation."  

A bill to get texting and driving banned statewide did not even make it to a vote in the legislature the session. 

But, this week there will be a small acceleration forward. 

A state law will make it a secondary offense for those with a learner's permit to text and drive

But, Chief Young is pushing it to go further in his own community as he said, the city has seen a 25 percent spike in crashes in Surprise over the last five years. 

"Now, I can't completely attribute all of that to the use of mobile devices. In fact, it's difficult to do that because many times we don't know."

Some council members said they wanted more research done before making a decision and some of that means working with cities who already have similar bans in place, like Tempe. 

"We live in a university town," said Tempe City Councilmember Lauren Kuby. "And texting while driving is sort of an epidemic in our city, as it is in all cities, and we wanted to find a tool that our police could use to ensure that our roadways are safer."  

Kuby was one of the four "yes" votes back in 2015. She said she is excited that cities, like Surprise, will be using them as an example.

However, the vote was very close in Tempe at the time. Vice Mayor Robin Arredondo-Savage voted against it. 

In an email, she told ABC15 that she still believes, like she did at the time, that there should be a statewide ban. However, she does now see how it has been an effective tool for law enforcement over the years. 

The city council will discuss this possible ordinance again at their first regularly scheduled meeting in August.