Tag Archives: cell

Coco Co and Flagstaff impose varying cell bans while driving

In April, Coconino County supervisors voted to ban cell use by drivers, including talking and texting — with the perennial exclusion for hands free devices.  azdailysun.com. It is a primary offense; and there’s some sort of six month grace period.

Somewhat confusingly, the City of Flagstaff council has passed a city texting ban (that is texting only, and mum on any other aspect of cell use) — the city is within Coconino County. “prohibits drivers and bicycle riders from texting, emailing or using an instant message program to send or read a message while the vehicle is in motion. Drivers and cyclists are allowed to text or email while stopped for a red light, waiting for a train to pass or pulled over on the side of the road.  The ban becomes law on Aug. 15, but the city is offering a six-month grace period” azdailysun.. The way it apparently works is the city (Flagstaff) has “opted out” of Coconino County’s ban and created their own, less stringent, ban — on texting only.

Continue reading Coco Co and Flagstaff impose varying cell bans while driving

Dead Right?

Armored Truck Flips in Phoenix; striking pickup seriously injuring its driver.

A Garda armored-truck driver, who was reportedly using his cellphone, flipped the vehicle on its side Tuesday (7/1/2014) morning, smashing in the hood of an oncoming pickup truck carrying a family of three, according to Phoenix police officials. The incident occurred around 8:15 a.m. on 51st Avenue north of Elliot Road, said Sgt. Trent Crump, a Phoenix police spokesman. The driver of the Garda truck said he picked up his cellphone to call his next stop when he lost control of the truck and swerved into oncoming traffic, Crump said… Officials said the (driver of the pickup) is in very critical condition at a local hospital… — azcentral

Continue reading Dead Right?

DPS stats shed light on distracted driving

Basic Speed Law

It may be helpful to review the law referred to below by DPS; it is what’s known as the “Basic Speed Law”, in Arizona, it is

§28-701  Reasonable and prudent speed; prima facie evidence; exceptions

A. A person shall not drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the circumstances, conditions and actual and potential hazards then existing. A person shall control the speed of a vehicle as necessary to avoid colliding with any object, person, vehicle or other conveyance on, entering or adjacent to the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to exercise reasonable care for the protection of others…

In other words, if you run into something or someone you are not supposed to, you have violated the basic speed law; the infraction in that case is referred to as something to the effect of “failure to control speed”.

Recently in the wake of the death of DPS officer Tim Huffman due to what appears to be blatant distracted driving… and this being distracted driving awareness month; Arizona DPS is running a crackdown and general media campaign, and has released some Arizona numbers on distracted driving. Here is the DPS press release; a news story is pasted below.

summary: distraction of any kind is associated with about 1 in 10 crashes (1,160 out of ~ 10,000 crashes reviewed); and cell use was the cause of distraction in about  one-quarter of those crashes (127 of the 1,160). SO DON’T JUST DWELL ON CELL PHONES. Continue reading DPS stats shed light on distracted driving

Report: Truck driver was looking at phone in deadly crash

[July 2015 Jorge Espinoza was sentenced to 6 years prison ]

[2/6/2015 A Yuma county jury found the driver guilty of negligent homicide, a class 4 felony, along with several other endangerment charges. yumasun.com I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it’s unprecedented for a prosecutor to bring, and get conviction, on any homicide charge against a driver not suspected of being   impaired. Note that the “defense had also argued that is not against the law to use a cell phone while driving” claim did not win the day; he was convicted anyway. ]

[Update Sept 2014; trial should have been going on but has been delayed due to defense attorney’s medical condition reports the yumasun.com ]

Police and prosecutors have released info regarding why they decided to charge the truck driver who caused a wreck that killed DPS Officer  Tim Huffman near Yuma on May 6, 2013 with a string of felonies including 2nd degree Murder.  (see Police work is dangerous, scroll down a bit, for earlier reports) Excerpts from Report: Truck driver was looking at phone in deadly crash: Continue reading Report: Truck driver was looking at phone in deadly crash

Hit and Run and good-old-fashioned-policework

[Final (?) Update 1/9/2015; defendant pleaded guilty to one count of 28-1201 endangerment, a Class 6 (the most minor) felony. Notably, the charge that was dropped, hit-and-run, is a much more serious class, class 3, and also would have triggered a mandatory 5-year license . The sentence is 3 years probation. One wonders how endangerment can possibly be “non-dangerous” but it’s right there in the deal. Sweet deal for the defendant, though it was a very long and drawn out — the collision he ran from occurred almost a year and a half ago — and presumably very expensive process ] Continue reading Hit and Run and good-old-fashioned-policework

2013: Bill would ban cell phone use by novice teen drivers

[Update as of 2/23/2013, The McComish novice cell ban, SB1241, is moving forward. The Farley full text ban SB1218 is dead. See below ]
[Update as of 4/4/2013 McComish bill appears stalled, it is being prevented from coming to a vote in full senate. In other news, Farley tried again, via amendment, to get a texting ban; see notes below on SB2378]

It’s the start of a new legislative season in Arizona, the 51st Regular session, for those keeping track.  (find other bills of interest with the legislation tag)

A cell phone ban has been introduced, SB1241. The same (or similar?) bill was introduced last year, bill-would-ban-cell-phone-use-by-teen-drivers-with-learners-permits. The bill applies only to “novice” drivers, that is those who are 16-18 years old, and the ban only lasts for 6 months. On the brighter side, it is a total ban, which I prefer to, say, a handsfree exception. For background, see NTSB has called for a total ban.

Arizona presently has no laws* restricting use of “electronic communication devices”, though there are some local bans, e.g. the City of Phoenix banned texting in 2007, and in 2012 the City of Tucson did something (i don’t have that handy; i’m thinking it was a handheld cell ban w/ handsfree loophole). Many other states have moved to try and limit cell use while driving; here is a good chart from ghsa.org. The main federal site is at distraction.gov.

* oops, that’s not exactly true; in Arizona, there’s a ban on all cell use by school bus drivers.

Here’s another bill sponsored by Steve Farley (D-Tucson) SB1268 class G licensees; communication devices. This bill seems nearly identical to SB1241(?); and as of 2/23 it is not assigned to any committee which I imagine means it is dead.

In any event, SB1241 is moving forward: it was heard and  got a DO PASS by Public Safety on 2/13. It was then (supposed to be) heard by Transportation 2/19 (minutes not yet available.

Full Texting Ban Proposed

This year, being no different than other years, Sen Steve Farley (D-Tucson) has introduced a general purpose (not age-restricted) bill that would ban texting; SB1218. According to an azcentral.com news story, this is one of only five senate bills to be “triple assigned”; meaning it must pass through THREE committees, any one of which can kill it.

Moving on, a news story 2/23 Scrap heap of dead bills piling up at Arizona Legislature, specifically mentions SB1218 as being “dead”. “Dead” means leadership didn’t assign the bill to (any) committee — i.e. it didn’t really get triple-assigned. Dead is not absolute but generally, dead means dead.

Farley tries to slip in texting ban

Sen Steve Farley attempted to slip in a texting ban via a floor amendment to an (arguably) unrelated bill, HB2312;  see Senate rejects texting-while-driving amendment 4/2/2013, here are some gems: “But (Farley’s) attempt to amend House Bill 2312 failed on a 16-12 party-line vote, with Republicans opposed and Democrats in support. Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, led the charge against Farley’s amendment. He said the books on state traffic laws are already thick with regulations that could enforce penalties against drivers whose on-road behavior is reckless”

Some History

Various legislators (Mr. Farley and Al Melvin come to mind) have in the past, repeatedly for several years running, introduced various more general restrictions on cell communications that never were enacted; stalling in various committees — see e.g. the 2010 go-round where a bill that year “sailed” through the Senate but stalled in the House.

handsfreeinfo.com/arizona-cell-phone-laws-legislation has a really good session-by-session history of Arizona cell legislation attempts which describes activity back as far as at least 2007.

Arizona Update — July 2013

News item about Farley’s ongoing multi-year efforts, Driver-texting ban still elusive in Arizona, begins “Almost every state has responded to rising smartphone use with a law banning drivers from texting, many in the past few years. Arizona is one of nine states that have yet to make that leap…”. Though I still haven’t seen compelling empirical data showing bans are having the desired effect. My list of studies is here. This begs the question; If cell phone use is so distracting (and it certainly is, there is mountain of off-road evidence that it impairs driving ability) what are the bans really doing? Are there unintended consequences?

NTSB calls for complete cell ban: LaHood backpedals

The NTSB has called for a complete ban on personal electronic communications device usage by drivers on the grounds that any non-emergency usage is unacceptable risky. Here is Deborah A. P. Hersman, NTSB chairman writing in USA Today on 12/15/2011:

Distraction, whether it’s hands-free or handheld, whether it’s texting or talking, is deadly. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) said distraction-affected crashes killed 3,092 people last year

Handheld-only bans, such as that proposed in the city of Tucson, are at best not likely to improve safety much; and in fact may have perverse effects. If handsfree become explictly permitted, it may well change behavior of those who formerly chose to abstain entirely, thus increasing risky behavior rather than reducing it.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, in late December “U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he won’t back a proposal to prohibit drivers from talking on cellphones, even hands-free devices, giving a boost to car makers and mobile-phone companies that stand to lose if regulators impose a ban” [wsj]. So there you have it, distracted-driver warrior LaHood won’t back a ban; along with an explanation of presumed pressure from business interests.

At this point, you might be wondering and confused about who-is-who in this Federal alphabet soup: What is the NTSB? This is a both interesting and intricate. One might think that NTSB resides under the DOT, however it turns out that is incorrect: “In 1974, Congress reestablished the NTSB as a completely separate entity, outside the DOT”.  The NTSB is run by a five member board; each nominated by the president for five year terms. Read that as far less politically sensitive, as compared to the Secretary of Transportation.

So Ray LaHood is Obama’s Secretary of Transportation; who runs the U.S. DOT, the United State’s Department of Transportation. And the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) is the group, under DOT, tasked with highway safety.

There is an enjoyably-cycnical view of the subject at LaHood says hands free calls are A-okay; throws NTSB under the bus.

Recent DOT blog  fastlane.dot.gov touts enddd.org.

Bill would ban cell phone use by novice teen drivers

(this article relates to bills introduced in the 50th Second Regular Session of the Arizona Legislature, spring of 2012)

Here’s a news item that has a pretty good rundown on SB1056, introduced by John McComish (R-20, which happens to be my district).

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the NTSB has called for a total ban on use of portable electronic communications by drivers — thats text, talk, handsfree or not — the whole shootin’ match.

This bill is a total ban; but targets only permitees and new drivers under 18 (but only for six months); which seems like a pretty logical place to start. The youngest drivers don’t have the experience and also tend not to understand the consequences of their actions that only comes with maturity and experience. When questioned about difficulty of enforcement, McComish pointed out that it is a secondary offense, like seat-belt laws, and that it will give parents a useful tool.

In case you’re wondering how this affects bicycle riders; it doesn’t. The licensing statutes are in Chapter 8, and bicyclists are only bound to follow Chapter 3, 4, and 5, see 28-812.

The hearing in front of the senate Public Safety and Human Services committee 1/18/2012 (direct link, does that work?) was very good; it’s near the end, and is about 10 minutes. This bill is something of a follow-on to some graduated driver’s license restrictions (the Teen Driver Safety Act, enacted in 2007.  Bill number?). Stuart Goodman spoke in favor on behalf of AAA; i would like to quote him, and i might be in the minutes(?) but in sortof paraphrase he said that according to CDC the number one cause of death for teens is traffic collisions; that the graduated license restrictions were good/helpful and there is evidence that as from 198?-2007 as alcohol-involved teen deaths have decreased,  the overall rate of teen fatalities has remained largely unchanged… and that is largely attributed to an increase in distracted driving as becoming the primary culprit. He then rattled off a bunch of age-related stats that seemd to indicate teen deaths are way down (due presumably to graduated license restrictions, like nighttime driving, and limiting the number of passengers for novice drivers). It passed unanimously out of committee. Also of note, Representative Vic Williams (R-26) , chair of House Transportation Committee, is a co-sponsor indicating if the bill makes it to the House, it would probably have an easy time getting through committee.

Here are the new sections, as introduced:





There’s also a recurring generic texting ban bill that has once again been introduced by Steve Farley (D-28), HB2321 texting while driving; prohibition. I’m not sure if it is significant or not, but it’s worth mentioning that this go-round, Vic Williams (R-26) , chair of House Transportation Committee, is a co-sponsor.

Arizona texting ban dies for real, again

After some lazerous-like moments, the Arizona legislature finally killed a texting ban for this session. SB1334, (select 49th Legislature, 2nd regular session before clicking). [news item1] … “S1334, a bill to ban texting while driving sailed through the Senate early in the session, but it stalled in the House and never received a hearing. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Al Melvin, a Tucson Republican, and it’s likely to come back again next year”.[azcapitoltimes news item] (Republican Andy Biggs is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee)

The usual complaints from the we-already-have-enough-laws legislators were successful once again, despite a groundswell of diverse support.  For example typical sentiments at the time that Phoenix Banned Text Messaging “Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, (at the time) chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said there are enough laws against distracted driving. He said further legislation is a waste of time. ‘If it comes to my committee I would hold it,’ Gould said”.

More recently, in March Gould said (in the video news piece) that if you really want to improve safety, you ought to ban talking on cell phones. And I agree. He, of course, doesn’t support such a ban; he supports neither.

Distraction receives attention

The US DOT put on a major two-day Distracted Driving Summit. Here is a news story about the conference from the WSJ.

There was a media blitz including e.g. major press push from AAA, and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

The federal government announced via executive order an immediate ban on texting for employees while driving government vehicles or while driving on official business in any other vehicle.

Legislation will be pushed which will ban texting while driving for federally regulated drivers, such as bus, truck, drivers. In addition, legislation to “encourage” states to likewise ban texting will be likely be introduced. The feds have no direct control over what legislation states enact — but (a big but), they can tie such things to withholding of federal monies, a la seatbelt and age-of-drinking, and 0.08BAC laws.

While all of this sounds good on the surface, my take is that is designed to make it appear to be getting tough on DD (distracted driving) while more-or-less ignoring the bulk of the problem. Why not a ban on talking on cell phones? (the “handsfree” business is just subterfuge). Or why not just enact real penalties for distracted drivers who harm others? This driver received a $254 fine for KILLING somebody. Here’s another driver — the police, because of an oversight, didn’t even write the citation. Just two examples of a huge class of inattentive drivers; drivers distracted by who-knows-what. They are apparently either sleeping, or daydreaming or actively distracted — though they rarely admit to the latter.

What does this all mean?

While I’m glad that distracted driving is receiving attention — it looks to me in looking at the press that the powers-that-be are setting up texting as the scapegoat. Texting will eventually be made illegal everywhere; but we will still have all sorts of other inattention being ignored, like talking on cell phones.

here is a blurb that ran in many media stories, but I have to find the source, note that it refers to cell phone use in general, not texting in particular:

A study performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that 955 deaths and 240,000 accidents in 2002 could be attributed to cell phone use. The study was conducted in 2003, but the results weren’t made available until last week…

morganlee.org has some good cell links, Motherjones article on the study, and reference to a lawsuit here.