Distracted driving has quickly become a deadly epidemic across the US. From talking or texting on their phones to eating and drinking, thousands of people are killed or injured every year from drivers committing risky behaviors when behind the wheel.
Even though many states have enacted laws against texting, talking on a cell phone, and other distractions while driving, Arizona remains one of the last states without some sort of a statewide ban for all drivers, not just teenagers.
A recent crash on State Route 51 serves as a somber reminder of the dangers of distracted driving. A pickup driver hauling a trailer crashed into a KIA being drove by a mother named Jennifer and her five-year old son during rush hour. The duo suffered fatal injuries from the crash.
Jennifer’s mother Jodi Edger expressed anger because the driver was able to walk away. “Do I think he meant to do that? Absolutely not, but do I think he needs to be held accountable or anybody needs to be held accountable? Absolutely. I think he was distracted. I don’t think he was paying attention to what was going on,” she said.
The crash report indicated that the driver of the truck was traveling too fast for the conditions as rush hour traffic on SR-51 was coming to a standstill. He hit Jennifer’s car so hard the force thrust it 120 feet, slamming into not one, but two cars in front of them. The driver was cited for failure to control his vehicle to avoid a crash.
According to Arizona DPS, there were 66,259 citations for that same violation in 2017 and many of them involved some sort of distracted driving. Since it’s still legal to talk on the phone and use GPS in most states, an issue that many law enforcement agencies across the country continue to experience is enforcing bans on texting.
That’s why Sen. Brophy McGee proposed SB 1165, a hands-free law that bans all handheld cell phones behind the wheel. Although similar bills in recent years haven’t enjoyed much success in Arizona, Sen. McGee likes the chances of this law getting passed. “There’s an ideological opposition to government interfering in our right to conduct our everyday lives. I think we have momentum like we’ve never had,” the senator said.