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On Feb. 28, the Tempe City Council passed a new distracted driving ordinance in order to create safer roads.

What is this ordinance?

According to tempe.gov, this ordinance prohibits drivers from “holding, typing on, or operating a mobile device while driving.” If Tempe Police see a person on their phone while driving, the driver can be cited.

How did this ordinance come about?

In 2015, the City of Tempe passed a distracted driving ordinance that allowed police to cite drivers for talking or texting on their phone only if police could prove that the driver was a danger. According to azcentral.com, texting and talking while driving was second offense. Tempe has updated the ordinance to make it a first offense, meaning police can now cite drivers for using their phone alone, not because they were pulled over for erratic driving.

Why did the city pass this ordinance?

This ordinance is apart of Vision Zero, which, according to tempe.gov, is Tempe’s “traffic safety policy that takes an ethical approach towards achieving safety for all road users. The goal is to achieve a reduction in the number of fatal and serious injury crashes to zero in Tempe, because no loss of life is acceptable.”

When did this ordinance go into effect?

This law went into immediate effect on Mar. 1; however, according to azcentral.com, the city granted a 30-day “educational” period, where drivers will be warned, not cited.

What does this ordinance mean for drivers in Tempe?

This ordinance means that drivers cannot hold, type on, or operate their phone while driving. According to tempe.gov, there are a few exceptions to this rule. When a driver is stopped at a red light, stopped at a railroad crossing, or parked on the side of the road, they cannot be cited. According to azcentral.com, a driver may also use a hands-free device and will not be cited.

What is the penalty for this offense?

According to tempe.gov, these are the penalties for using a phone while driving:

  • $100 “plus penalty” for the first offense
  • $250 “plus penalty” for the second offense
  • $500 “plus penalty” for “repeated incidents within a 24-month period”

What other Arizona cities and/or counties have a distracted driving law?

There are other cities and counties that have ordinances that ban cellphone use while driving. Each city or county ordinance varies. Some cities or counties have ordinances similar to Tempe, allowing drivers to use hands-free devices. Others do not let drivers use their phone at all, not even on a hands-free device. According to azcentral.com, these are the other Arizona counties and cities that have some sort of ban on cellphone use while driving.

  • Cities:
    • Bisbee
    • Cliffon
    • Chino Valley
    • El Mirage
    • Flagstaff
    • Fountain Hills
    • Glendale
    • Kingman
    • Oro Valley
    • Phoenix
    • Prescott
    • San Luis
    • Sedona
    • Surprise
    • Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community
    • Tucson
    • Yuma
  • Counties:
    • Coconino
    • Pima
    • Yavapai

Is there a statewide law?

Currently, there is not a statewide ban on distracted driving, but a bill has passed the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee on Feb. 20, according to azcentral.com. There is also a law that went into effect July 1 that affects new, teenage drivers. According to azcentral, this law “prohibits new drivers younger than 18 from using any wireless devices while holding their learner’s permit and during the first six months of their provisional license.” This law does not affect any driver who has had their license for more than six months without being cited and/or a driver who is over the age of 18.

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