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One Year Since SRPMIC Passes ‘No Texting While Driving’ Ordinance

A banner reminds drivers to not text and drive in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The historic tribal ordinance was approved in April 2016.

Since the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community passed its historic “No Texting While Driving” ordinance about a year ago, 12 drivers on Community roads have received either a citation or a written warning.

The ordinance, a first for Indian Country, was unanimously approved in April 2016, two years after the Young River People’s Council sparked the idea. A 90-day educational period, or “grace period,” was implemented, during which only warnings were issued to any suspected violators early on. Since April of last year, three drivers have been cited and nine drivers received written warnings, according to the Salt River Police Department.

Police place a digital traffic sign in different locations throughout the Community as a reminder that texting while driving is prohibited. Banner sign reminders are also placed on and around tribal government buildings.

Violators are subject to a $50 civil fine, and the fine could potentially double if that person has been previously cited. Some exceptions to the texting ban include texting to report an emergency or suspicious activity, and using the device for navigation. To read the two-page ordinance, visit www.srpmic-nsn.gov/government/ordinances.

The rest of Arizona might finally be catching up.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed a teen texting bill in April. It doesn’t go into effect until July 2018. The law prohibits teenage drivers from using wireless communication devices while driving within the first six months of getting a driver’s license or learner’s permit. The law won’t affect youth age 18 or 19.

Although Gov. Ducey supports this law, don’t expect a statewide ban on texting while driving. He said it doesn’t work.

“Distracted driving is a growing problem in Arizona and nationally,” Ducey said in a statement. “I generally believe that public awareness and education campaigns are a more effective remedy to prevent accidents and save lives than blanket laws ….”

Arizona is one of a few remaining states that still do not have statewide restrictions on texting while driving.

In 2015, 3,477 people were killed and nearly 400,000 were injured in car crashes involving distracted driving, according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed,” according to NHTSA.