Tempe distracted-driving ordinance makes strictest texting while driving law in Arizona

Tempe drivers better think twice before picking up their phones.

A distracted-drivers ordinance was put into effect on Saturday, making it the strictest texting and driving law in Arizona.

Tempe Councilman Kolby Granville said he hopes the law will reduce the number of accidents and fatalities caused by distracted driving.

“We modeled this after the state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma saw a three percent decrease in traffic fatalities overall and an 11 percent decrease in fatalities among people 25 years and younger,” Granville said. “There is no reason to not expect those numbers to mirror themselves here and in fact it might be better here because we have such a high student population.”

Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff are the only other cities in Arizona with a similar ordinance in place, according to Granville, but it only applies to using text messaging.

The difference in the Tempe ordinance is that it extends past texting while driving. The use of any electronic device resulting in reckless driving qualifies as an offense.

“This is not going to be a primary offense,” Tempe Police Lt. Mike Pooley said. “Meaning if we see someone texting it’s not going to mean we can immediately pull that person over. It’s going to be a secondary offense, kind of like a seatbelt.”

As long as your driving behavior is not dangerous, you will not get pulled over for texting while driving. Police said they have not been tracking warnings given out this past weekend.

“Basically we want people’s driving behavior to be good,” Pooley said. “We want people to drive safely and the best way to drive safely is to not even use your phone.”

There will be a 90-day grace period where officers will not give out citations for distracted-driving. However, starting January 22nd citations will be issued.

“We don’t want to come out there and start citing people right away, we want people to get educated,” Pooley said. “We want them to understand what’s going on and where we are coming from.”

Granville added that a benefit of this ordinance is that “it will make people safer than they were the day before.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) did a study that found texting while driving was six times more dangerous than drunk driving.

The Arizona legislature has tried to pass a ban on all texting and driving, 2015 was the ninth consecutive year that it has failed.

Forty-seven of the fifty US states have passed it at a state level, leaving Arizona as one of the three states left to pass it.