Scottsdale police should write tickets for "distracted driving," such as text messaging, eating, talking on the phone or applying makeup while operating a vehicle, the city's transportation commission recommended Thursday.
Commission members voted 5-1 in favor of recommending that the City Council adopt a ban on text messaging, but also to urge the council to look at expanding that potential law to bar any activity that distracts a driver from the road.
"Why not move forward to prohibit what we all know to be dangerous?" said commission member Howard Sukenic.
Commission member Kelly McCall cast the dissenting vote, saying she would rather use a public outreach campaign.
"I would prefer to use education," she said.
The recommendation likely will go to the City Council next month, said Annie DeChance, transportation spokeswoman.
Scottsdale police Chief Alan Rodbell said the commission's original proposal, to simply ban text messaging, was too narrow. It's hard for police to distinguish between texting, dialing a phone, or operating a music storage device, he said.
"If you stop somebody for texting and they're dialing the phone, my understanding is that's not a violation. But it's still distracted behavior," Rodbell said. "Texting is too exact an issue for us in terms of enforcement."
Only one traffic crash in Scottsdale in the last 24 months could be attributed to texting while driving, but the collision was not a "serious accident," he said.
Phoenix has issued seven citations for texting while driving since it enacted a ban in September 2007, and only one of them was found not guilty, Rodbell said.
He recommended letting the Legislature handle the issue, rather than having local governments enacting bans piecemeal.
"We do agree with the commission's concern that distracted driving is dangerous," Rodbell said.
Bill Howard, commission chairman, said the problem is bigger than texting.
"I think the issue is keeping your attention on the operation of the vehicle," he said.
The proposed law would serve to inform the public about the dangers of distracted driving, and act as a deterrent, Sukenic said.
"There are a lot of laws on the books that are hard to enforce," Sukenic said. "If we can prevent even one person from getting hurt ... I personally see no reason why we shouldn't go forward."
The commission's recommendation, he said, is to "give the council something to start with."