State Rep. Victoria Steele (D-Tucson), who introduced a bill to ban reading or sending a text while driving, went along with an Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer to patrol Interstate 10 on Wednesday.
Here are three things she learned.
1. “The most important thing I learned is…”
It could be really hard for police to implement and enforce a distracted-driving law.
On her tour, Steele saw that some drivers were obviously using their phones, but the officer didn’t always have a reason (like speeding or tailgating) to pull them over.
Even if the officer has a good reason, he can’t check the driver’s phone to gather evidence that the driver was distracted.
Arizona doesn’t have distracted-driving laws, but officers are trying to use existing laws as best they can to combat the problem, she said. Steele tweeted about her experience.
2. “There’s a ton of distracted driving.”
In a 4-hour tour on Interstate 10, the officer pulled over three drivers who were distracted. Two were using phones or handheld devices. The officer gave them warnings.
“A lot of people still believe they can get behind the wheel and take their eyes and their hands and their attention off their driving — and that’s a deadly situation,” Steele said.
DPS has recorded 10 fatal crashes in five months that were related to distracted driving, she said.
3. A change in public perception might be faster than a change in the law.
People are starting to change their minds about using phones while driving, and more and more people agree it’s dangerous, Steele said.
Someday it might be just as unacceptable as driving without a seatbelt or drinking and driving, she added.
That may be what it takes, because there isn’t much political will at the State Legislature to make distracted driving a traffic violation. Steele’s bill didn’t go anywhere, but she said she plans to try again.