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Thu, Nov. 21

Miner Editorial | Education is important, but enforcement is now required

“Don’t Text and Drive” reads the billboard off of Andy Devine Avenue on the way downtown. (Photo by Travis Rains/Daily Miner)

“Don’t Text and Drive” reads the billboard off of Andy Devine Avenue on the way downtown. (Photo by Travis Rains/Daily Miner)

Distracted driving is a serious issue that is gaining attention statewide and across the nation. Kingman has a hands-free ordinance, and the state legislature is working on a statewide “distracted-driving” ban.

Statewide, this bill has passed through the Senate. As of March 5, that bill is now before the House, which is the next step to becoming a law.

There's also a lot of time for drivers to get to know the new rules of the road, with the law not taking effect until 2021, though police could issue warnings until then. And at that time a first violation would carry a fine or no more than $149; subsequent offenses will cost offending drivers at least $150 but no more than $250.

These changes by the Senate are far less than the original House bill that was proposed. Under that bill, a first violation of the law would be punishable by a civil penalty of $100. A second violation would result in a $300 penalty. If a traveler is found to have been texting while driving in a motor vehicle accident, he or she will be fined $500 – unless that accident results in death to another person, in which case the offender would face a $10,000 fine.

This texting ban law isn’t an immediate deterrent. People will still text and drive, but if we start now, it can help develop a habit. Just like when seatbelts were implemented in the 1970s. One $100 ticket for texting and driving, and maybe people will think twice about it.

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s most recent statistics, texting while driving was the cause of about 846 traffic accidents in 2017. About 270 of those accidents resulted in injury, and one resulted in a fatality.

The City of Kingman is ahead of the curve in regards to laws in place to prevent distracted driving.

However, it is falling short when it comes to enforcing those laws.

According to the Kingman Police Department’s annual reports from the last three years, 690 warnings were issued regarding hands-free ordinance violations, while only 25 citations were written in 2018. In 2017, there were 949 warnings and 27 citations, and in 2016, 517 warnings and 14 citations. Violating Kingman’s hands-free ordinance is a primary offense, which means officers can pull over a driver for no other reason than a violation of the ordinance.

So why aren’t people being cited for it?

Education.

These warnings are meant to serve as an educational experience for drivers. It’s to change habits and mannerisms and educating the public that distracted driving is a primary offense and they can be ticketed for it.

Education is important, the Daily Miner Editorial Board isn’t arguing that.

However, after three years, the time for education is gone.

One of the first things people learn when they move to Kingman is that there is a hands-free ordinance. It is always mentioned within the first few days, especially that this is a primary offense.

Distracted driving killed nearly 3,500 people nationwide in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It injured nearly 400,000 in that same year.

We have laws in place to protect our citizens from being part of these statistics.

Three years is plenty of time for education. People are aware.

Now is the time for enforcement.

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