A measure that would have banned sending text messages on electronic devices while driving died in the Arizona Legislature earlier this year. This was the right decision. These laws are almost impossible to enforce, as most “texting” drivers don’t display their cell phones within sight of passing cops.
Yet the Scottsdale Transportation Commission just can’t let go of the idea of fooling people into thinking they will be safer with such a needless law.
In August, commissioners voted 5-2 against recommending that the City Council pass such a ban. But on Thursday , they voted 5-1 in favor, the Tribune’s Ari Cohn reported. Commissioners also suggested that council members expand the ban to several other distracting behind-the-wheel activities.
The council should toss this plan out on its ear. It’s not what is causing a motorist to drive erratically or unsafely that matters. It’s that he or she is driving unsafely that does. That is what should be punished; it is also what a police officer can far more easily observe than what’s going on inside a vehicle.
Besides, we cannot imagine a circumstance currently in which a reckless-driving case defendant could be brought into city court only to find an incredulous judge scanning the list of ordinances and exclaiming, “Wow! There’s nothing here about 'texting’ while driving! I’m just going to have to let you go!”
But once ordinances start listing bad driving behaviors, a defendant could get charges dismissed by claiming that his particular form wasn’t among them. Nor does having such a law on the books lead to yanking noteworthy numbers of distracted drivers from the streets.
In August, the Tribune reported that in September 2007, Phoenix banned texting while driving. According to figures provided by the Scottsdale Transportation Commission, as of June 30 Phoenix police had handed out only eight citations; six of those cited were found guilty.
A new city ordinance wouldn’t do any more to curb “texting” while driving than a new state law would. Scottsdale’s City Council should resist the desire to pass feel-good ordinances that do nothing to improve public safety. Council members should send the Transportation Commission this message: No.