As Texting-while-Driving Accidents Grow, Tucson Works to Enact New Laws

As Texting-while-Driving Accidents Grow, Tucson Works to Enact New LawsAcross the country, drivers of all ages are giving in to the temptation to text while driving, which has led to an outbreak of tragic accidents. To confront this issue, city officials in Tucson, Arizona, are working to pass new legislation that would make the dangerous act illegal.

One instance of such a tragedy recently occurred in Pennsylvania, where a high school student was killed in an accident that was later determined to be caused by texting while driving, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

On Tuesday, November 2, 17-year-old Alexis Summers of Jefferson Township, Pennsylvania, was killed after losing control of her vehicle and crashing into a tree, which allegedly occurred while the young woman was texting and driving.

State Police Lt. Eric Hermick told the media outlet that investigators found Summers’ cell phone with a partially typed text message on the screen, but neither the message nor the massage’s recipient were disclosed by the officer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that in 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes that involved driver distractions, including cell phone use. The number comprised 16 percent of all roadway fatalities across the nation.

Now, Tucson, Arizona, is joining the crusade against texting while driving. On Wednesday, November 9, policymakers met to further discuss implementing an all-out ban on texting while operating a vehicle, Fox Arizona 11 reports.

According to the media outlet, members of the council were shown a video at the meeting depicting just how dangerous texting while driving is.

“I think it was a powerful video,” said Councilman Steve Kozachik. “As a bike rider and a runner myself, it really hit home with me.”

At the meeting, a proposed ban on all cell phone activity while behind the wheel was unanimously supported by the lawmakers, as all agreed the action is an accident waiting to happen.

Arizona has held out on creating texting-while-driving laws, and is only one of six states that have not put any related measure into place. State Representative Steve Farley says he has tried to pass a state bill several times, but to no avail. On Wednesday, Farley openly endorsed Tucson’s developmental plan.

“We’ve got to make it clear, no texting while driving, period. There’s no reason for that,” he stated, adding that “you need to not just have a law; you need to combine with law enforcement.”

CBS affiliate News 13 reports the ban would be based on a Phoenix ordinance that states city drivers can be fined $100 for texting while driving, and that if an accident is determined to be caused by driver distraction, the fine is raised to $250.

Tucson city officials hit a snag when deciding if the bill would be a primary law, which would allow officers to pull a motorist over for only texting, or a secondary law, in which another offense must be cited as the reason for the traffic stop.

“I don’t think we’re trying to trap people,” said council member Steve Kozachik, who introduced the proposal. “What we’re trying to do is put another tool in the police officer’s tool box. We’re also just trying to build public awareness.”

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, there were a total of 106,177 car crashes in the state in 2010. Of that total, 12,026 were determined to be caused by driver distraction, comprising 5.96 percent of all state accidents. Inattention while driving took the lives of 201 motorists and injured 3,280 others.