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Tempe OKs ordinance making phone use while driving a primary offense

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Tempe City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Thursday that makes using a phone while driving a primary offense.

Police will now be able to pull over drivers in Tempe if they are seen using, or even just holding, a phone while in motion.

The previous law required police to have another reason to make a traffic stop, but drivers could face additional penalties if they were using a phone.

The Council also unanimously approved an emergency clause, meaning that the ordinance bypassed the normal 30-day waiting period and immediately went into effect.

However, the Council stipulated that there will be a 30-day education period, meaning that even though the ordinance is in effect, officers will only issue warnings for the first month so drivers can adjust to the change.

Drivers will be subject to a $100 fine for the first incident, and other incidents will result in a $250 fine. Repeated incidents within a 24-month period will incur a $500 fine, plus a penalty.

One student at Arizona State University, which has its main campus in Tempe, agreed with the move to strengthen the ordinance.

Melissa Sorrentino is from the East Coast and told KTAR News 92.3 FM it’s about time an ordnance like this passed in Tempe.

“Ever since I moved to Arizona I’ve never seen so many car accidents,” she said Friday.

“I’ve never seen so many young adolescents driving and texting and I think that’s a main reason that there are so many accidents. I see at least three every day.”

Another student, LT Hobson, said Friday while he agrees with the move, he thinks it could cause problems for police and community relations.

“If more pull-overs happen over texting and driving it might cause more aggression with police, especially if more minorities are pulled over because that’s already an issue,” he told KTAR News.

The death of Salt River Police Officer Clayton Townsend sparked a renewed discussion over whether Arizona needs a statewide distracted driving law.

Townsend was struck by a car while conducting a traffic stop on Loop 101 in January.

The driver admitted that he was texting and driving when the crash occurred.

Arizona reported 741 car crashes that may have been caused by distracted driving in 2017, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Glendale, Fountain Hills, Phoenix, Surprise and El Mirage all have some form of law against drivers using cellphones or other handheld devices, in addition to Tempe.

There have been multiple efforts within the state Legislature to pass a statewide texting and driving ban this year, but none have been passed yet.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Kinnerup contributed to this report. 

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