Mesa has backed off the issue of banning text messaging while driving. The Transportation Advisory Board on Tuesday voted down a move to create an ordinance similar to one in Phoenix, which will be enforced starting Friday.
Instead, the board decided to let it be handled by the police department.
“It kind of seems outside the realm of our responsibility,” said board member Ken Cole.
Traffic Sgt. Ed Wessing said the Mesa Police Department has been watching to see how Phoenix would enforce the law.
“From a practical standpoint, it’s very difficult,” Wessing said, adding that most people do not hold their phones high enough for someone to see them, much less verify that a text is actually being sent.
People can claim that they are receiving a phone call, which is completely different, Wessing said.
Board chairman Greg Woods argued that some people would be deterred simply because there is a law against the practice.
“There are a lot of laws on our books that are unenforceable,” he said.
Assistant Transportation Director Dan Cleavinger said the city also has traffic safety representatives who visit schools and educate students about the dangers of text messaging.
A motion to table the ban for one year, and wait to see the results in Phoenix, failed.
Vice chairwoman Heather Moos said she would rather see something comprehensive, noting that there are plenty of ways to be distracted while driving.
“I’m not going to police what everyone is doing,” she said. “We’re not Big Brother.”
Woods said he brought the issue to the board to “send a message” to the Legislature to take action.
“I think the city needs to show some leadership on this,” he said. “The city of Mesa can speak in just as loud a voice banning text messaging.”
He added his concern that someday a parent would come to the board asking what the city did “to prevent the traffic fatality of their child.”
Phoenix City Council voted on Sept. 19 to prohibit text messaging while driving.
The Phoenix ban includes the following:
• Prohibits using personal digital assistants to send or receive written messages while operating a motor vehicle.
• Does not apply to law enforcement, a person reporting reckless behavior or a person in physical danger.
• Penalizes drivers $100 for text messaging when not involved in a crash.
• Penalizes drivers $250 for text messaging when involved in a crash.