Cover Story
During a regular Council meeting President Delbert Ray, Sr. signed the ‘No Texting While Driving’ Ordinance, while the Young Rivers People Council, members of Council and the Salt River Police Department staff witnessed the event.

SRPMIC Becomes First Tribal Nation to Adopt a ‘No Texting While Driving’ Ordinance

By Richie Corrales
Au-Authm Action News

TTYL, LOL, CU and AAMOF are “words” in a language most people know in this digital age. It seems innocent enough, but problems occur when people text while driving—it causes accidents.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 10 percent of all drivers age 15 to 19 involved in a fatal crash were reported to be distracted at the time of the crash. In 2014, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 injured due to distracted drivers.

The SRPMIC Tribal Council recently passed an historic ordinance prohibiting texting while driving. It is the first such ordinance in Indian Country. The ordinance prohibits drivers from texting while driving a vehicle in motion on any roadway in the Community.

The road to get to this point was not easy—there were many challenges, but with the perseverance of the Young River People’s Council (YRPC), the ordinance was passed. Each year the YRPC chooses two goals to work on. In 2014, then 14-year-old Jacob Willeford came up with the idea of “no texting while driving.” While working as a summer student with the Salt River Fire Department, he witnessed accidents caused by distracted drivers and thought this ordinance might be something the YRPC could work toward. The YRPC agreed that it was worth pursuing, and their next step was to present their goal to the SRPMIC Council. The Council members also agreed it was a worthy goal.

“The reason this goal was important to me was that when I was 14, smartphones became very popular and a lot of people were texting and driving,” said Willeford, who is now 17. “For two summers straight I was a youth worker for the Salt River Fire Department and I saw a lot of car accidents, many [involving] people who were texting and driving. So I thought this was a great idea to bring up in the Youth Council.”

Little did the Youth Council know that it would take several meetings and an entire team of departments to help realize the goal of getting the ordinance passed. Under the guidance of the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs, the YRPC met with the Office of General Counsel and the SRPMIC Administration and presented the proposed ordinance at district Council meetings.

After two years, the hard work paid off. On Wednesday, April 20, the SRPMIC President and Council supported the No Texting While Driving ordinance during a regular Council meeting. Ariana Leonard, vice-president of the YRPC; Monica Webster, secretary; and Willeford, who is a Youth Council member, all spoke at the Council meeting and presented a PowerPoint presentation on the No Texting While Driving ordinance.

“This is a great accomplishment to know that we are the first community in Indian Country to adopt such an ordinance. I hope other tribal communities will see the importance of this issue. I am proud our elected leaders listened to our concerns in adopting this ordinance,” said Dione Dallas, YRPC president.

“When I found out that the proposed ordinance was going to pass, I was relieved, because before it did we attended some district meetings to get the word out and many people were for it as well as had questions about it,” said Willeford.

Council questioned the 90-day educational period; it was explained that the Salt River Police Department requested the “grace period” so that there could be Community outreach and signage developed and placed at key locations around the Community.

At the time of the ordinance signing, President Delbert Ray, Sr. shared with the Youth Council how getting this ordinance proposed and passed in the Community was a great learning process for them and explained how many ordinances take a while to pass. He praised them for their hard work.

A committee has been set up and will determine how to provide information to Community members and the public about the new no-texting ordinance on Community roads.

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