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Updated Nov 11, 2013 - 8:36 am

Arizona DPS to crack down on texting drivers

TUCSON, Ariz. — The Arizona Department of Public Safety plans to crack
down on drivers who are distracted by texting or their cellphones in general.

The enforcement effort will begin in January and be accompanied by an education
campaign, DPS spokesman Bart Graves said.

Graves told the Arizona Daily Star that the plan was
being discussed before the traffic-related death of a DPS officer in May. But he
said officer Tim Huffman’s death highlights the problems with distracted
driving.

Records obtained last month by the newspaper showed investigators believe the
driver of a big-rig truck, Jorge Espinoza, was looking at cellphone photos of
scantily clad women when he slammed into police cars and emergency vehicles on
Interstate 8 in Yuma County. Huffman was in a DPS cruiser hit by the truck and
was killed.

“What occurred on I-8 was tragic and totally preventable,” he said. “It’s
not just because we lost an officer. It’s because we’re losing people all across
the state all the time.”

The Legislature has repeatedly rejected a ban on texting while driving, but
Graves said a state law on “speed not reasonable and prudent” will be used to
cite distracted drivers.

“Any speed is not reasonable when you’re texting, because you’re not fully in
control of your driving,” Graves said.

Extra enforcement will be coupled with media messages, brochures, videos and
social media.

“We want the driving public to know one true fact,” Graves said. “When
you’re on the highway, going 55-65 mph, your full attention should be on your
driving and on nothing else.”

In the crash that killed Huffman, trucker Espinoza was driving an empty fuel
tanker 65 mph on cruise control. The Yuma trucker has pleaded not guilty to 20
felony charges including one count of second-degree murder, 13 counts of
endangerment and six of criminal damage.

___

Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com

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